WARNING: Distressing content
Seconds before Timothy Jones Jr allegedly wrapped his hands around his eldest daughter’s neck and strangled the life out of her, she uttered four final, heartbreaking words: “Daddy, I love you.”
The gut-wrenching revelation came on day seven of Jones’ trial this week for the murder of his five young children, days after taking them on a trip to Disney World, in a case that has gripped America.
The 37-year-old computer software engineer faces the death penalty for allegedly strangling one-year-old Abigail, two-year-old Gabriel, Nahtahn, 6, Elias, 7, and Merah, 8, in their Lexington County, Alabama, home in 2014.
He has admitted to the murders of all five but pleaded not guilty by way of insanity, citing “undiagnosed schizophrenia”.
On Monday, the court heard harrowing testimony from his ex-wife and mother of all five children, Amber Kyzer, who had to be physically supported by two officers as she made her way to the stand.
“Oh god. Oh god. My babies! My babies!” Ms Kyzer screamed before breaking down into sobs as she struggled to read out a letter of comfort she had written to eldest child Merah in the wake of her divorce from Jones.
The defendant was awarded sole custody of the three boys and two girls in 2013 following a two-year investigation by Child Protective Services and a nasty legal battle that centred on Ms Kyzer’s alleged affair with a 19-year-old neighbour.
Jones, who has been described as a fundamentalist Christian with strict ideas about marriage and raising children, struggled with life as the primary carer of five young children and was found to have meted out excessive punishments for minor infractions, the court heard.
‘DADDY, I LOVE YOU’
Prosecutors say Jones killed six-year-old Nahtahn first after the boy damaged an electrical outlet inside their mobile home on August 28, 2014.
The murder was allegedly witnessed by his eight-year-old sister Merah who was the next to die, followed by seven-year-old Elias.
The court heard Merah’s final words to her father as he closed his hands around her neck and fatally strangled her were: “Daddy, I love you”.
Next, Jones wound a belt around the necks of his two-year-old son Gabriel and his youngest child, one-year-old Abigail, and choked them to death, prosecutors say.
He then stuffed their bodies into garbage bags before loading them into the back of his SUV and driving around with them for more than a week.
According to The State, Jones rambled aimlessly through four states, his “black Cadillac Escalade serving as a horrific hearse” before stopping in rural Alabama.
Police documents tendered to the court say Jones dumped the bags containing the by now badly decomposing bodies of his five children off a dirt road in a remote forest.
He was arrested at a routine traffic stop in Mississippi a day later after a police officer noticed the unmistakeable smell of death emanating from Jones’ vehicle.
Lexington County police digital forensics expert Michael Phipps told the court an examination of Jones’ mobile phone showed during his days on the run, he received dozens and dozens of messages from his ex-wife, relatives, babysitters, teachers from the kids’ school and his boss, asking where he and the children were and begging him to get in touch.
Mr Phipps also testified Jones made numerous internet searches in the days before and after the murders that allegedly showed premeditation and intent to cover up, the Greenville News reported.
The topics included “Facing legal problems — where do you run?” and which countries lacked extradition treaties with the US. He also searched for landfills, rubbish dumps and businesses that sold synthetic marijuana.
Jones also looked up a trailer for the 2002 Oscar winner A Beautiful Mind. The film, starring Russell Crowe, tells the story of gifted mathematician John Nash, who was a schizophrenic.
The trial continues.
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