South Carolina

Last attempt to save Tim Jones from death: relatives beg the jury, ‘Let him live’

Jones family sticks together through unimaginable pain

Tim Jones's brothers and sister testified during trial about how they still love their brother. Jones is on trial for the murder of his 5 children.
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Tim Jones's brothers and sister testified during trial about how they still love their brother. Jones is on trial for the murder of his 5 children.

For five minutes Wednesday, under the friendly questioning of a defense attorney, Travis Jones — the younger brother of convicted child killer Tim Jones — poured his heart out to a Lexington County jury about his love for his older brother.

Always, Travis Jones told a Lexington County jury, Tim Jones had been there for him — as kids, watching cartoons together and eating cotton candy. Through the years, Tim Jones has been a role model, helping him with personal problems, getting him baptized, assisting him with school work, and once — when Tim Jones had been sent to a prison boot camp — he told his younger sibling, “Little brother, where I am right now, I never want to see you here.”

But Wednesday, looking at across the courtroom at Tim Jones, convicted last week of murdering his five young children, ages 1-8, in a drug-fueled rage, Travis Jones took on the role of older brother, giving Tim Jones words of tough love:

“I’m sorry, Tim. I sit here and l look at you, you’re not all there anymore, brother,” and then Travis Jones began to weep.

Defense attorney Casey Secor then asked Travis Jones if it was important to him that his older brother stay alive, even though he would be in prison for the rest of his life.

“Yes it is. It’s the most important thing to me. That’s why I’m here. I do not want to see him lose his life,” replied Travis Jones, who began to sob. “I’m going to lose my brother after I’ve lost my nephews and nieces. Please don’t do that to me.”

Then Travis Jones stepped from the witness stand, walked up the courtroom aisle to where his father, Tim Jones Sr., sat on one of the hard wooden benches, and collapsed in his arms. The two men hugged each other for a long while.

Travis Jones was one of four members of Tim Jones’ immediate family who testified Wednesday — and the last of 13 witnesses put up by Tim Jones’ defense team since Friday in an effort to convince the jury it should not give him the death penalty.

Jones’ other brother Tyler Jones, his stepmother Julie Jones, and sister Jackie Jones also asked the jury for leniency in court Wednesday.

Closing arguments in the trial are slated to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Lexington County courthouse before state Judge Eugene “Bubba” Griffith. The jury could begin deliberating as early as around noon.

Since the trial began, on May 14, the jury has heard details of one of the most shocking multiple murders in modern South Carolina history — how an overstressed, drug-tripping, mentally addled Tim Jones deliberately strangled four of his children to death on Aug. 28, 2014. They were Merah, 8; Eli, 7; Gabriel, 2; and Elaine, 1.

Prior to killing those four, Jones killed his 6-year-old son Nahtahn, forcing him to do extreme calisthenics without letup. Horrific details of all five killings came from Jones’ own mouth, captured on tape in a dramatic confession Jones made to an FBI agent and Sgt. Adam Creech of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department.

Confronted with Jones’ obvious guilt in the slaughter of his own children, the defense has tried to convince the jury — through witnesses and cross-examination — that Jones is mentally ill and, now under medication, can live a somewhat worthwhile life if the jury gives him a life sentence without parole.

‘Don’t take one more’

With Wednesday’s last four witnesses, the defense team made the points to the jury that yes, his family is horrified too at what he did, but the extended family was close-knit and Jones — who was earning $80,000 a- ear as a software engineer at Intel — can still help others, even though he is in prison.

Through the family members, defense lawyers introduced photos of the slain children, swimming in a backyard pool and at birthday parties. They played a video of the five children’s funeral, where the congregation sang “Amazing Grace.”

“Do you want Tim to be put to death?” defense attorney Boyd Young asked Tyler Jones, another brother.

“I do not. I know what he did was horrible. He took five of my family members — don’t take one more,” Tyler Jones told the jury. “He’s my brother.... At the end of the day, you love your brother, no matter what they did.”

Earlier, through another defense witness, prosecutor Rick Hubbard used cross-examination to hammer home to the jury the point that Jones, and Jones alone, is responsible for his children’s deaths.

“With all his troubles, he chose not to turn to his family for help?” Hubbard asked Deborah Grey, a psychologist who told the jury an elaborate Jones family tree she had constructed showed myriad dysfunctions — from child abuse to mental illness to suicide — that she said influenced Jones’ behavior.

“Correct,” said Grey.

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