A South Carolina father who killed his five children with his own hands, then drove around with their bodies for nine days, has been sentenced to death.
Timothy Jones Jr showed no emotion as the jury delivered the verdict after less than two hours of deliberation.
They could have sentenced him to life without parole.
The same Lexington County jury convicted Jones of five counts of murder last week in the deaths of his children, aged between one and eight, in their Lexington home in August 2014.
Prosecutors pushed for a death sentence. Solicitor Rock Hubbard told jurors in his closing argument earlier that if any jurors had doubts whether Jones deserved the death penalty, all they had to do is consider the five rubbish bags where he dumped their bodies in rural Alabama.
But a lawyer for Jones told jurors they alone could show mercy — if not for a father who killed five children with his own hands, then for a family that has seen so much death and still wants to love Jones, even through prison bars.
Jones’ father hung his head in his hands as the verdict was read and other family members appeared to cry.
Jones is just the second person to be sent to South Carolina’s death row in five years. The state has not executed anyone since 2011 because it lacks the drugs to carry out lethal injection.
Mr Hubbard began his closing argument by asking if the jurors had ever heard of a crime more horrendous than what they have listened to over four weeks of testimony.
Jones, 37, has been selfish all his life, trying to break up his father’s second marriage because he was not getting enough attention and controlling his wife’s every decision, Hubbard said.
When she left him, Mr Hubbard said, Jones could not stand that his control was over.
With custody of his children, he mistreated any of them who showed any intention of wanting to be with their mother instead of him, Mr Hubbard said.
Jones first killed six-year-old son Nahtahn in a “white hot rage” after the boy confessed on the phone to his mother — but not to his father — to breaking an electrical socket.
Over the next several hours, Jones went and got cigarettes, taking his oldest daughter so she would not call for help, and leaving the three other children with their brother’s body.
Then he made a decision, the prosecutor said.
“He’s done what you folks are going to have to do. He deliberated. ‘I am a one man jury and I have before me life or death’. He sentenced his kids to death,” Mr Hubbard said.
In a confession, Jones said he strangled seven-year-old Elias with his hands and chased down eight-year-old Merah before choking her. He then used a belt to choke two-year-old Gabriel and one-year-old Abigail.
That deserves death and not life, Mr Hubbard said.
A life sentence “is just send Timmy to his room, make him think about what he has done”, Mr Hubbard said.
After killing the children, Jones loaded their bodies into his car and drove around the South East US for nine days before dumping them in five black bags on a dirt road near Camden, Alabama.
He was arrested hours later after an officer at a traffic checkpoint in Smith County, Mississippi, said he smelled a horrible odour of decomposition.