A trial began last week for Timothy Ray Jones, Jr., 37, a South Carolina man with Amory ties, who allegedly killed his five children in 2014 and is now facing a potential death penalty. One of his three defense attorneys argued he has schizophrenia and is insane at the trial’s opening statements.
Jones was taken into custody in south Mississippi after being pulled over in September 2014 for suspicion of driving under the influence, and evidence connecting him to the children’s deaths was found inside his Cadillac Escalade.
After authorities in Smith County ran his license plate, they were alerted Jones was wanted by law enforcement in South Carolina after missing person reports had been filed by his ex-wife and family in Amory, who were expecting him and the children for a visit.
After being interrogated by the Smith County Sheriff’s Department and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Jones led authorities to the bodies off of a dirt road in Wilcox County, Alabama.
After being extradited back to South Carolina, Jones was charged with five counts of murder.
The prosecution in the trial, being held in Lexington County, South Carolina, said Jones killed his 6-year-old son, Nahtahn, after he broke an electric outlet in their home in late August 2014. Prosecutors continued to state he strangled his children, Mera, 8, and Elias, 7, with his hands and strangled Gabriel, 2, and Abigail, 1, with a belt.
In the trial’s opening day, one of Jones’ three attorneys, Rod Madsen, said his ex-wife had an affair with a neighbor while she was pregnant with their fifth child, and he won full custody of the children. Madsen said Jones medicated himself with drugs, which made his schizophrenia worse.
He said after the killings, Jones drove 700 miles through parts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama with the children’s bodies in his vehicle listening to voices in his head.
He eventually buried the bodies on a hillside in Camden, Alabama, according to police reports.
The children stayed with their grandfather, Timothy Jones Sr., and his wife, Julie, in Amory during the summer of 2013 while the parents were going through their divorce.
Following the discovery of their bodies, a memorial service was held at Amory’s Church of Christ, where they attended Vacation Bible School the previous summer.
Jones’ trial could last into June. If he is found guilty of murder, the same jury will hear testimony to decide if he should receive life in prison or the death penalty. Jones’ attorneys are seeking a verdict of not guilty by means of insanity.
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The application process to provide long-term recovery for those affected by floods and tornadoes through the April 13 and 14 severe weather outbreak began last week and is slated to continue through May 31.
Monroe Strong, a nonprofit operating through the CREATE Foundation, will meet weekly to evaluate applications, which are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We want Hamilton and Monroe County back and better than ever as soon as we can,” said committee member Jessica Gray. “We want to help as many people as we can. It doesn’t matter if they need a lot cleared or a stump removed. The quicker we can get the applications, the quicker we can approve them.”
Applications are available Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Aberdeen, Amory and Smithville city halls and Mondays through Saturdays at Center Hill Baptist Church, located at 40009 Church Rd. in Hamilton. The church will be open on Memorial Day from 8 a.m. until noon.
Funding for the recovery fund is from grants and donations received for relief, and more funding is being added daily.
“Every dollar and every dime will go to the residents of Monroe County,” said Gray, who serves on the committee with Emily Kennedy, Bro. Terry Edwards, Henry Adams, Warren Holley and Butch Palmer.
After candidates are approved, contractors will assess needs. There is also an option for people to check a need for free crisis counseling.
“We’ll be in need for volunteers for quite some time. We’ll need people to help with case management and pastors to volunteer for crisis counseling. We’ll be in need of strong backs and chainsaws for quite some time,” Gray said, adding there’s a need for equipment.
The volunteer effort following the storm has been tremendous, and Gray said there has been collaboration with volunteer organizations from throughout Mississippi and the southeast. She has reached out to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and plans to reach out to Habitat for Humanity for additional help.
She thanked Hubert Yates, board president of Mississippi Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, and the Monroe County Board of Supervisors for support following the tornado.
For more information, call 319-7301 or check out Monroe Strong: Long Term Recovery Committee on Facebook.
HAMILTON – The April 13 tornado that delivered a devastating blow to Hamilton caught the attention of the Tupelo-based CREATE Foundation, which wanted to assist by filtering a $10,000 grant through its affiliate, the South Monroe County Community Fund.
“They wanted us to decide,” said SMCCF Chairperson Kathy Seymour of how it would be used. “I contacted my board to say the fire department may be the best. We feel lucky. CREATE has done great things for us in south Monroe County.”
SMCCF board member Susan Honeycutt, who lives in Hamilton, said members of the Hamilton VFD were the first responders she saw the night of the tornado, even though the tornado caused significant damage to the fire station, making trucks and some equipment inaccessible.
“I feel blessed we’re able to help with this. I live here and see them on a daily basis,” she said.
The amount of the grant came as a shock to Hamilton VFD Chief Raymond Oliver. It, along with the other donations received, will go towards rebuilding the fire department. The training room area of the station remains for now.
“Insurance declared us a total loss. I’m getting plans drawn up for an 80x80 and for one like the department already had,” Oliver said. “A bigger station would help us serve our community in a better capacity and give us more room for the trucks.”
Since the tornado, Hamilton VFD had answered 33 calls as of last Wednesday, with the only structural fire being one alongside McDuffie Cemetery Road April 14. The department, which is always seeking more volunteers, serves roughly 1,400 households in a six- to seven-mile service district.
“Our motto is, ‘We won’t back down,’ and we don’t whatever the case may be,” Oliver said.
The Hamilton VFD was established in 1976, and the fire station was constructed in 1978.
The CREATE Foundation grant adds to a wealth of assistance received locally and from throughout the United States helping the fire department. Help has come in from Ohio, North Carolina, Alabama and from throughout Mississippi, and Baby’s Coffee in Key West, Florida pledged to continue to help.
“A hurricane got one of their fire departments three times, and they decided not to rebuild,” Oliver said of Key West.
A building fund is set up at Cadence Bank for anyone wishing to donate towards Hamilton’s new fire station.
“The fire department is okay as far as equipment. The trucks are okay. One is in the shop, and one is going to the shop. Monetary-wise, we need it to put towards a building to cover our trucks,” Oliver said.