Dad Who Murdered His 5 Kids After Trip to Disney Says He Did It in 'Self-Defense'

Photos of the Jones children taken before their murders.
The State

Nearly five years after allegedly murdering his five young children -- and driving around with their bodies in the back of his car for a week -- South Carolina dad Timothy Jones, 37, is finally standing trial for the crimes. His plea? Not guilty, by reason of insanity. And his reasoning as to why he committed the crimes has left prosecutors stunned.

  • According to WCSC, the murders took place on August 28, 2014, inside Jones's mobile home in Lexington, South Carolina.

    In a taped interview with police, Jones later confessed that he grew angry after seeing four blown electrical outlets in the home, and he confronted his 6-year-old son, Nahtahn, whose answer for what happened apparently didn't satisfy him. 

    He then proceeded to force the boy to do squats, push-ups, and sit-ups for hours until sending the boy to bed. But when he checked on him later, Jones claims he found his son dead.

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  • That's when "the voices took over," and convinced him that no one would believe it was an accident -- so he proceeded to kill his four other children.

    First, he strangled Elias, 7, and Merah, 8.

    In one heartbreaking detail, Merah reportedly said "Daddy, I love you" right before he choked her to death.

    Then -- perhaps most disturbing of all -- came the murders of his 2-year-old, Gabriel, and 1-year-old, Abigail, who he strangled with a belt after realizing his hands were too big.

  • After killing his five children, Jones says he stuffed their bodies into black garbage bags and loaded them into the back of his SUV.

    He drove around aimlessly for a week through four different states, as their decomposing bodies lay in the back of his Cadillac Escalade. (In fact, they would leave an odor so strong, that investigators would later say they immediately recognized "the smell of death" when they examined the car.)

    Finally, Jones disposed of their bodies off a red dirt road in rural Alabama, the State reports, though it appears he did not bury them.

  • Police caught up with Jones in Mississippi on September 6, 2014, where he was arrested and charged with the murders.

    They had been tipped off on September 3, after the children's mother, Amber Kyzer, Jones's ex-wife, reported them missing when Jones failed to drop them off for a scheduled visit.

    Along with detecting a strong odor of human decay, police say they found blood, maggots, and synthetic marijuana in the vehicle. They also discovered a clipboard, on which Jones had scrawled phrases such as "melt bodies" and "saw down bones." Incredibly, Jones confirmed that the handwriting was his, but he claimed to have no memory of when or why he wrote them.

    It wasn't long before the father began to crumble in front of investigators, and admitted to the killings. But in the most mind-boggling twist of all, he insisted it had been done in preemptive self-defense, before the kids could "chop him up and feed him to the dogs," according to WCSC.

    “He started talking about Elias and Nahtahn and that they had said they want to kill him, that they essentially were colluding against him,” said FBI Agent David Mackey, who led the initial interview.

    And if that explanation falls a bit (or a lot) short for you, you're not alone. 

  • Since Jones's murder trial finally began May 14, more details about what may have precipitated the murders have started spilling out.

    For one thing, there was the contentious divorce battle had ensued between Jones and Kyzer.

    Taking to the stand Monday, Kyzer told prosecutors that she originally fell for Jones because he was intelligent and accomplished and, as a successful software engineer, he seemed to have his life in order. But after they were married, she says his demeanor changed, as Jones became both demanding of her and increasingly immersed in his religion.

    "Women are to be seen and not heard," Kyzer told the courtroom, of Jones's marriage philosophies. "I was merely to take care of the children. To keep them out of his way."

    Eventually, the pair split after strains on the marriage became too much and Kyzer allegedly had an affair with a 19-year-old neighbor. Unable to financially support her children herself, the mother relinquished custody to Jones, who she felt could better care for them.

    Sadly, that couldn't be further from the truth.

  • Jones reportedly took the kids to Disney World shortly before the murders, but defense attorneys say his mental health was rapidly deteriorating. 

    In fact, his attorneys now claim that Jones suffers from undiagnosed schizophrenia -- a condition his own mother has been institutionalized with for more than two decades. They claim that his wife's affair, their subsequent divorce battle, and the mounting pressures of taking care of five children led him to snap.

    Kyzer claimed that despite their marital tensions, he had been a good father during their marriage, which is likely why she entrusted him with custody. But following their divorce, his mental state began to shift.

  • Meanwhile, Jones's own family was baffled by what investigators said happened on that terrible day in August five years ago.

    In September 2014, Jones's father, Tim Jones Sr., stood in front of his home and spoke with reporters. At the time, it was several days before the children were to be laid to rest, and he was grief-stricken and dumbfounded by the accusations against his son.

    “We do not have all the answers and we may never have all of them,” he said, according to the State. “But anyone who knows Little Tim will agree that he is not the animal that he will be portrayed through the media.”

  • In her courtroom testimony on Monday, the children's mother broke down in tears as she remembered each of her five children.

    "He was my tater tot," Kyzer said at one point of her son, Nahtahn. "I called him Tater, because he just couldn't catch up with his older siblings ... he was very small."

    She also read off letters she wrote to each of the children following the divorce, in hopes of reassuring them that they were loved.

    "Merah, my sweet sweet daughter, I know that your heart feels heavy and that you feel really sad sometimes," one letter read. "I want to reassure you sweetheart, that you along with your brothers and sister mean everything to me. You kids are my world, and Mommy and Daddy are very blessed to have you."

    When asked by prosecutors why she penned the letters, Kyzer said, "I knew my kids were hurting over us not being together anymore, and I felt as though it was my place to apologize for breaking their hearts ... for their broken home ...  and [to remind them] how proud I am of them."

  • According to Fox, after relinquishing custody to Jones, Kyzer would only see her children every Saturday, under Jones's supervision.

    She would drive to the local Chick-fil-A to meet with the children, which is where she went on September 6 after not hearing from her kids for nine days. By that point, Kyzer had alerted police, who were standing by, and when Jones failed to show at their normal meeting time, they set out in search of him.

    Jones's trial is still ongoing, but if convicted, he faces the death penalty.