South Carolina social workers were familiar with Timothy Jones Jr. long before police accused him of killing his five children and dumping them off a dirt road in Alabama, according to documents from the state Department of Social Services.
Police also had contact with him the day his children disappeared, when he allegedly admitted to a Lexington County sheriff’s deputy that he “forced” his five kids, all between the ages of 1 and 8, out of a vehicle at a Walmart on August 28, according to an affidavit.
Jones was transferred Thursday from a Mississippi jail to Lexington County, where he was served with arrest warrants in connection with his children’s deaths. Jones, who faces five murder counts, is scheduled to have a first-appearance hearing on Friday morning.
Jones, 32, was arrested Saturday in Smith County, Mississippi, and charged with driving under the influence, possession of synthetic marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department in South Carolina said.
Three days later, Jones led Lexington County and federal authorities to five sets of remains near Oak Hill, Alabama. Police announced this week that Jones drove 700 miles with his kids’ bodies wrapped in garbage bags in the back of his SUV.
Jones and the children were listed as missing persons last week after Jones failed to drop off the children with his ex-wife.
A long Department of Social Services file
According to reports from the state Department of Social Services, case workers had expressed concerns about the children in the past, as early as 2011, but the most recurring complaint was that the Jones’ house was a mess.
The first DSS visit came in September 2011, a report says, when a caseworker visited the home because of allegations that the kids — at the time, only three — were dirty and not attending school. The mother, who was pregnant, said the children were 3, 4 and 5 and too young to start school but that when they were of age, they would be home-schooled, the report says.
The caseworker expressed concern that the kids were barefoot and that there were tools and construction items lying in the living room, the report says.
On a followup inspection, the house was clean, the report says, but the following month, the caseworker visited and spoke to Jones on the phone. During the conversation, “he became very hostile” and told the caseworker “she was ruining people’s lives.”
The caseworker called police, but when Jones arrived, he’d calmed down, the report states. The caseworker told Jones the home wasn’t safe for the kids, and Jones took them to a hotel, it said.
In May 2012, after the couple had separated, the caseworker visited and the mother gave the caseworker documents indicating some domestic abuse issues. The caseworker advised the mother to go to a shelter, but she said “she did not want to do that and she would be okay.”
In June of that year, the mother told DSS that Jones had taken the kids — now four of them — to live with his grandparents in Mississippi.
The mother, who was pregnant with the couple’s fifth child, went to visit her mother in Ohio in August 2012, and DSS submitted the case for closure. The case was closed in October 2012.
Renewed DSS interest
Four months ago, a South Carolina DSS case manager spoke to one of the children who stated Jones made them do exercises for punishment. There was a mark on the child’s neck, and the child said Jones spanked his kids with a belt.
“Child did not indicate any verbal fear of father,” the report says.
The child’s sister confirmed that they did pushups and other exercises for punishment and that their “father will slam them around playing.”
“She stated that is not afraid of her dad,” the report states.
DSS determined the children should not be removed from the home, and there wasn’t cause to arrest the father. Jones admitted to the case manager that he had spanked his son, and the case manager told Jones to refrain from physical discipline.
Ten days later, the case manager arrived on one of the kid’s birthdays. Cupcakes were out. Jones said his ex-wife had left him for a younger man and she hadn’t seen her kids in four months, the report says.
The case was closed in July, but a case manager was called August 13 after allegations that Jones beat his son, leaving bruising, and that he was not feeding them properly, at times making all five kids split a 20-piece chicken nugget dinner, the DSS report states.
Once interviewed, the children denied any abuse or neglect and told the case manager what meals they’d eaten the night before.
“Dad appears to be overwhelmed as he is unable to maintain the home, but the children appear to be clean, groomed and appropriately dressed,” the report states.
Of that encounter, Jackie Swindler, a representative of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, said, “DSS did not see any visible signs of abuse. … At the time, there was nothing to alarm them.”
Jones and the children disappear
The next calls to DSS came September 3 and 4. The sheriff’s department was seeking Jones and the children, who Jones’ ex-wife had reported missing.
Jones, a computer tech and Mississippi State University graduate, told neighbors last week that he was moving his children from their home near Lexington to another state.
It’s unclear how or why Jones allegedly killed his children, but acting Sheriff Lewis McCarty of Lexington County told reporters that Jones drove for several days with their decomposing bodies in the back of his SUV.
It is believed he killed all the children at the same time, and that the crime happened in Lexington County, 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,” McCarty said.
When Jones was picked up Saturday at a police checkpoint in Mississippi, he seemed “very strange, maybe somewhat disoriented, a little bit on the violent side,” McCarty said. In the car, police later found “cleaning material. They saw blood. They saw children’s clothing but no children.”
The remains found in Alabama have been returned to South Carolina, where autopsies will be performed.
“I’m a father and I’m a grandfather and in all of my years of law enforcement I have never seen a case like this,” McCarty said.
Standing before television cameras with his wife sobbing by his side, Jones’ father spoke to reporters Wednesday.
“We know that the angels are with us, but your prayers are helping us cope,” Tim Jones Sr. said. “We do not have all the answers and we may never have all of them, but anyone who knows little Tim will agree that he is not the animal that he will be portrayed through the media.”
He described his son as “a very loving father, brother and son” and said the family was heartbroken.