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Just hours before single father Tim Jones Jr. slaughtered his five children, he was captured on surveillance footage picking them up from an after school program.
“Daddy, are you feeling better?” 8-year-old Merah can be heard asking him as she runs along beside him.
It's an image that still haunts jurors, months after Jones was sentenced to death for the brutal murders, according in The State.
But it isn’t the only image. There are also the details about the kindergarten graduation that Nahtahn—the first to die—had worked so hard to get to, only to have no parent attend.
“It broke all our hearts. … I remember going home the day of that testimony, and I cried all the way home,” one juror told the paper. “I was so upset because that child (Nahtahn) didn’t have anybody because nobody was there.”
Or the "Toy Story" doll that had been Nahtahn’s prized possession. It was ripped to shreds by his father as punishment, the prosecutor said.
Jurors held the tattered Woody doll in their hands as the doll’s pre-recorded voice exclaimed, “Boy, am I glad to see you!”
Jurors would later say it was like getting a message from Nahtahn himself.
The new in-depth report by the local South Carolina paper reveals the grisly details that continue to torment jurors—who had come from all walks of life—and the significant trauma they continue to struggle with today.
“I think about it every day,” one 52-year-old juror, who served as an alternate, told the paper. “Many times during the trial, I went in the jurors’ bathroom and just wailed – cried my eyes out.”
One juror reported it wasn’t uncommon to hear fellow jurors get emotional in the bathroom just off the jury room.
“You could hear them sobbing through the walls,” the juror said.
The State spoke with nine of the 18-member jury panel about the experience. Some have admitted to seeking counseling, others have relied on family support, and the group has also relied on one another by regularly communicating through a group text chain.
Dawn McQuiston, a psychology professor at Wofford College in Spartanburg, called the reaction by many of the jurors “secondary trauma,” meaning those who are exposed to traumatic cases can in turn be haunted by the details themselves.
“The people typically selected for jurors—they’ve never seen or heard such graphic details before,” she said. “You can only imagine the shock to their system.”
Jones was sentenced to death in June after the jury convicted him of five counts of murder for the death of his children, Merah, 8; Elias, 7; Nahtahn, 6; Gabriel, 2; and Abigail, 1, local station WIS reported at the time.
Jones led authorities to the bodies of the children—they were found in garbage bags along a dirt road in Alabama—after he was arrested in Mississippi.
During the trial, jurors would hear a tape played by an FBI agent of Jones describing the killings. He reportedly killed Nahtahn first by making him do exercises until he died from exhaustion. Then he strangled the others.
His 8-year-old daughter’s last words were allegedly, “Daddy, I love you.”
Jones’ defense team had argued that the former software engineer had undiagnosed schizophrenia and pointed to trauma in his own childhood to claim that he was not guilty by reason of insanity.
However, jurors rejected that claim after hearing testimony from a psychiatrist, listening to the taped confession and hearing a recorded phone call in which Jones blamed the killings on his ex-wife.
He showed “zero remorse,” one juror, who is a paralegal for a criminal defense firm, told the local paper.
Throughout the trial, despite the disturbing details and emotional testimony from investigators, the children's teachers and their mother Amber Kyzer, jurors wanted to stay strong to avoid a mistrial.
“The last thing anybody wanted was a mistrial, which would cause a retrial. In the end, if we didn’t do it, somebody else was going to do it,” one juror, identified only as Juror 272, said.
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