A South Carolina man killed his five children, ages 1 to 8, then dumped their bodies wrapped in trash bags in a secluded clearing along a rural road in Alabama, authorities said Wednesday.
Timothy Ray Jones Jr., 32, will be charged with five counts of murder, and officials believe he acted alone, Acting Sheriff Lewis McCarty of Lexington County said. Authorities think all five children were killed at the same time, but they said they don't yet know how or why. Autopsies were scheduled to begin Thursday.
Jones was stopped at a traffic checkpoint in Mississippi on Saturday and he was acting strangely, authorities said. A deputy spotted bleach, blood and children's clothes in his Cadillac Escalade, authorities said. It would be another three days before the children's bodies were discovered.
Jones was taken into custody and charged with drunken driving. When authorities ran his license plate, they discovered Jones and his five children had been reported missing by their mother, authorities said.
On Tuesday, Jones began cooperating and led authorities to the bodies off a dirt road in central Alabama and they discovered the bodies.
The children were last seen Aug. 28. The older children were at school, and Jones picked up his younger kids at daycare. He was to return the children to their mother's home Sept. 2, but never showed up. Their mother, Jones' ex-wife, reported them missing Sept. 3.
The case has unfolded over the past two weeks, covering five states and about 700 miles in what the sheriff called a "logistical nightmare." It wasn't until Tuesday afternoon — when authorities made the gruesome discovery of the children's bodies — that they went public with the case.
"We were trying to balance the children and the investigation against the releasing of information," McCarty said. "I am a police officer. I'm not a politician. My job basically is to get this job done."
State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said authorities did not issue an Amber Alert because the case didn't meet the criteria because Jones had legal custody of his children.
On Wednesday, food and other garbage were piled up outside Jones' mobile home south of Lexington. The yard was overgrown, with broken toys strewn about.
A sign on font door said, "Is there life after death? Trespass here and find out" with a photo of a gun.
Jones was awaiting extradition from Mississippi on Wednesday. The children's bodies have been brought back to South Carolina for the autopsies. Officials won't comment on any causes of death until the autopsies are completed.
The children's mother, Jones' ex-wife, is in shock and distraught, McCarty said.
"I'm sure everybody wants to know the answers," Jones' father, Timothy Jones Sr., told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Amory, Mississippi. "It's just a terrible tragedy."
"They were wonderful. They were happy," Jones' stepmother, Julie Jones said of the five children as she cried. "They were wonderful, beautiful."