CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A South Carolina jury sentenced a man to death on Thursday after convicting him of murdering his five young children at their mobile home in 2014 before driving their decomposing bodies through several states and dumping them in Alabama.
The jurors voted unanimously to give Timothy Jones the death penalty. The same jury last week found him guilty of the murders of Merah, 8; Elias, 7; Nahtahn, 6; Gabriel, 2; and Abigail, 1.
Jurors considered whether to give Jones the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole. Jones, 37, a divorced former software engineer, did not testify at the trial in Lexington, South Carolina.
In closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutor Rick Hubbard said the murders of children under age 11 warranted the death penalty.
“Let the punishment fit the crime,” Hubbard told jurors. “He is a mass murderer.”
Casey Secor, the defence attorney, reminded jurors that Jones’ mother was institutionalized with schizophrenia, a sometimes inherited mental illness.
“How much more death does the Jones family have to endure?” defence attorney Casey Secor said. “The death penalty is never required in any case.”
During the week-long penalty phase of the trial, the jury saw graphic photos of police evidence and heard emotional testimony from the children’s school teachers and relatives.
Jones’ father, Timothy Jones Sr., pleaded for his son’s life and took his shirt off in court to show his back covered with tattooed images of his slain grandchildren.
Jones’ ex-wife Amber Kyzer testified that she hoped for mercy for Jones even as condemned what he had done.
“He did not show my children mercy by any means. But my kids loved him,” Kyzer said. “Nothing justifies what you’ve done,” she told Jones.
Jones was arrested in Mississippi in September 2014 and led police to the children’s bodies, wrapped in garbage bags, in Alabama. He confessed to police that his middle son, Nahtahn, died after Jones punished him and that he later strangled the other four children.
Jones said in a 2014 phone call from prison played in court that he “snapped” when he killed Nahtahn, 6, because the child was crying for his mother. Jones said a “gremlin voice” told him to kill the rest of the children, a psychiatrist testified during the guilt phase of the trial.
A prosecutor said Jones was a selfish, evil man who abused his children and murdered them out of rage and fear of being caught.
Editing by Frank McGurty, Tom Brown and Susan Thomas