LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. — A father accused of killing his five children will face murder charges as soon as he's brought back to South Carolina, said Lexington County Sheriff Lewis McCarty.
Authorities found the remains of the five children — ages 1 to 8 — Tuesday on a dirt road off Alabama Highway 10 near the Oak Hillcommunity in Wilcox County, said Alabama Law Enforcement Agency spokesman Sgt. Steve Jarrett.
Timothy Ray Jones Jr., 32, was arrested in Mississippi on Saturday on unrelated charges. He led authorities to the bodies Tuesday, which were in five separate garbage bags.
During a news conference Wednesday, McCarty said no motive has been revealed, but that officials believe the siblings were killed at the same time.
McCarty described Smith as being "calm" as he led investigators to the children's bodies.
Authorities feel the deaths took place early on.
But anyone who knows Little Tim will agree that he is not the animal he will be portrayed as through the media.
Timothy Jones Sr., father of Timothy Jones Jr.
"We do feel deaths occurred in Lexington County (S.C.)," McCarty said.
McCarty characterized the bodies as being in an advanced state of decomposition, and said even the manner of death is not clear at this point.
Jones drove up into North Carolina, then back into South Carolina, officials said. Then he traveled through Lake City and Orangeburg, S.C., then into Athens, Ga., before returning once again to South Carolina before he drove to Mississippi.
"We feel that he killed the five children at the same time. He traveled three states with these children in garbage bags in the back of his vehicle," McCarty said. "I don't understand why he did it, but yes, these children were in the car, deceased in garbage bags for some period of time."
Sheriff's officials in Smith County, Miss., said Jones waived his right to an extradition hearing, paving the way for him to return to South Carolina late Wednesday, where he will be charged with five counts of murder.
The children's bodies are already in South Carolina. McCarty said he won't release the names until an autopsy is performed, which also will determine exactly how the children died. Autopsies are set to begin Thursday.
He said he has spoken to the children's mother over the course of the investigation, who he says is in shock and distraught.
"I don't think that there's a person in this room that could speak to the mother of her children and not be emotional," McCarty said.
The Mississippi grandparents of the children issued a statement Wednesday seeking privacy as the family grieves.
Outside his home in Amory, Miss., Timothy Jones Sr., the suspect's father, asked for privacy and respect in order to "mourn the loss of our loved ones, not only our grandchildren, but our son as well."
He described his son as a loving dad.
"We do not have all the answers and we may never have them," he said. "But anyone who knows Little Tim will agree that he is not the animal he will be portrayed as through the media."
Mississippi State University confirmed Wednesday that Timothy Ray Jones Jr. graduated from there in 2011 with a degree in computer engineering.
Jones was arrested Saturday in Smith County, Miss., after he was detained at a traffic checkpoint. Deputies there reported that he seemed to be under the influence. When they searched his SUV, they found what they believed were chemicals used to make meth and a synthetic form of marijuana, and what appeared to be bleach, muriatic acid, blood, and possible body fluids in the car.
SLED Chief Mark Keel stands at the podium beside a projection of the images of the children who were killed.(Photo: WLTX)
Smith County Sheriff Charlie Crumpton said authorities began questioning Jones right away, and interviewed him for two nights. He said Jones was trying to tell police at first that the children were just fine.
"He was saying, 'The kids have been taken care of, there's not a problem,' " said Crumpton. "We knew that wasn't right because they would have turned up somewhere."
Crumpton said Jones' moods fluctuated greatly during the police interview.
"His emotions would go from really calm to irate to crying. He just bounced up and down. He'd be high as you could go then low as you could go," Crumpton said.
We feel that he killed the five children at the same time. He traveled three states with these children in garbage bags in the back of his vehicle.
Lexington County Sheriff Lewis McCarty
Crumpton wasn't sure whether Jones displayed any remorse.
"At some point I was hoping I saw some of that," he said.
The children were last seen Aug. 28 when Jones picked them up from school, McCarty said. They did not attend school Aug. 29 or Sept. 2. The children's mother reported Jones and the children missing to the Lexington County Sheriff's Department on Sept. 3, he said.
At that time, McCarty said, a missing persons' report was filed and the investigation began with the report being placed into the National Crime Information Center computer database.
McCarty said this was not the first time the mother has had difficulty reaching her ex-husband, which was among the factors that led law enforcement to hold off on issuing an Amber Alert. State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel also said that the children were believed to be with their primary guardian, Jones, which also was another reason why the alert wasn't sent.
When deputies ran Jones' tags after his arrest, they got a hit in the missing person's database about the children. He was then arrested for DUI and possession of a controlled substance, and deputies in Smith County called South Carolina officials.
Authorities said there had been a complaint to the Department of Social Services about Jones and his treatment of the children on Aug. 7. That same day, the Lexington Sheriff's Department and Department of Social Services both went to their residence and talked to Jones, the children and neighbors. At that point, they couldn't find anything to say they had been abused, but were set to revisit the home within 45 days.
Records describe a messy divorce in October 2013. His wife was having an affair with a neighbor, according to the divorce file. Jones was given primary custody, and a therapist called him "highly intelligent" and a "responsible father."
Jones was an Intel engineer and made more than $70,000 a year, and his wife didn't work outside the home or have a driver's license, according to the records.
McCarty said authorities felt from the beginning that there may have been foul play in the case of the missing children. Jones finally confessed to police Sunday night, Smith County Sheriff Charlie Crumpton said, then led investigators from several agencies to where he had buried the bodies of the children in Alabama.
McCarty called the case unprecedented in his three-plus decades in law enforcement.
"I've never seen a case like this," McCarty said. "We all see things in our career that have an impact on you. This case has impacted anyone ... who's had anything to do with this."
Contributing: The Associated Press. Santaella also reports for WLTX-TV, Columbia, S.C.; Apel also reports for The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.