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Death Penalty Possible For Family Annihilator Who Drove For Weeks With Remains In Tow
Michael Wayne Jones confessed to beating his wife to death with a baseball bat after she allegedly accused him of infidelity. In the weeks following, he then strangled or drowned their children — ranging from ages 1 to 10 — and stored their bodies in suitcases and totes.
Jurors must decide whether a Florida man convicted of brutally murdering his family will be eligible for execution.
Michael Wayne Jones, 41, pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder in November for the violent 2019 murders of his wife and her four children, each ranging from ages 1 to 10, according to the Ocala StarBanner. As part of the plea deal, the case went straight into the penalty phase instead of going to trial, with jurors tasked with deciding whether Jones will face life in prison or death, NBC Daytona Beach affiliate WESH reported.
The Marion County jury, consisting of 10 men and five women, heard arguments from both sides, beginning with opening statements, on Thursday.
Assistant State Attorney Amy Berndt told jurors how Jones “brutally murdered” his wife, Casei Jones, 32, and then “savagely” killed her four children, two of whom, stepsons Cameron Bowers, 9, and Preston Bowers, 4, were fathered by another man.
Two daughters, Mercalli Jones, 2, and Aiyana Jones, 11 months, were fathered by the defendant.
Jones told authorities he first murdered Casei Jones on July 10, 2019, after she allegedly accused him of infidelity, according to a 142-page police report obtained by Jacksonville CBS affiliate WJAX-TV. Jones said his wife nudged him with a metal baseball bat before he took the weapon and beat her to death as the children slept in the family’s Summerfield home — about 60 miles northwest of Orlando and 15 miles south of Ocala.
Jones then stored Casei’s body in a tote bag, tried to clean the blood and placed the body in a closet, according to WJAX-TV.
Prosecutor Berndt told jurors Casei’s blood was found on the floors and ceiling of the family residence, per the StarBanner.
Following Casei’s murder, Cameron and Preston spent two weeks with their biological father, and the girls were sent to stay with Casei’s mother.
Jones allegedly gave a disturbing account to police about killing the stepsons after they returned, sometime between Aug. 10 and Aug. 22 of that year, according to the CBS affiliate. First, he said he entered Cameron’s room before school and manually strangled him, pressing a knee to his chest to keep him from breathing, according to the report.
“[Jones] advised when he went into the room, his intention was to kill [Cameron]. He stated, ‘Everything was on him,’” according to the report. “While he was killing Cameron, Preston was sleeping in the bed right next door. He then placed Cameron's body in a suitcase.”
The next night, he opted to kill Preston, but because his hands hurt from strangling Cameron, the notion “popped in his head” that he would use a zip tie to strangle the 4-year-old. Instead, Jones admitted to placing a rag in the bathtub drain and drowning the child under running water.
Jones confessed to using kitty litter “to help soak up the bodily fluids” while storing the boys’ bodies in the home for several weeks.
Later that month, after the girls returned from their grandmother’s, Jones proceeded to drown each one in the bathtub and stored their bodies in a tote bin, per WJAX-TV.
On Sept. 1, 2019, while being evicted from the Summerfield home, he stored all the victims' bodies in a van, which he continued to drive. At one point, prosecutors said, he drove to visit his ex-wife and their three children with the remains still in the van.
On Sept. 10, Casei Jones’ mother reported the five of them missing, and days later, on Sept. 15, 2019, Jones was involved in a single-vehicle accident in Brantley County, Georgia, north of the Florida state line. Jones told responding officers they’d find his dead wife in the vehicle.
Jones then led officers to the bodies of the four children, who were found in totes and suitcases in a wooded area nearby, according to WESH.
Jones’ public defender, John Spivey, is arguing that jurors should spare his client’s life and sentence him to serve his remaining years behind bars, according to the StarBanner. Spivey described his client’s abusive childhood, noting the defendant was the victim of child molestation, had a father in prison and a stepfather who allegedly abused him.
Spivey said these instances led to a “free fall of psychotic chaos,” according to the StarBanner.
Spivey painted Jones as a father of seven children (three of whom he had during a previous marriage) who succumbed to the alleged domination of his paramour — and later wife — Casei Jones.
He also claimed his client lived with mental health issues and that previous jailhouse instances — including Jones banging his head on the wall to get rid of the voices in his head — showed “a portrait of a man out of control.”
Friends and family testified Michael Jones had previously abused his wife, according to WESH.
Additionally, Casei Jones' sisters, Brandi and Sarah Gilbert, testified to how the deaths impacted their lives, sharing that their mental health has taken a toll since the murders, according to the StarBanner.
Testimony in the penalty phase is expected to continue throughout the week. Should a jury decide Jones deserves execution, the vote must be a unanimous one.