COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) — For the first time since the trial of accused child killer Timothy Jones Jr. started, his defense team is getting its chance to plead its case to the jury.
After more than five days of testimony from 32 witnesses, Solicitor Rick Hubbard told Judge Eugene Griffith the state rested its case on Wednesday morning. After a short break, the jury returned to hear from the first defense witness, Dr. Travis Snyder.
Snyder, a neuro-radiologist from Las Vegas, spent more than an hour on the stand in pre-recorded testimony played for the jury. He testified about his examination of an MRI scan taken of Jones' brain in April of 2018.
He testified he found significant evidence of a serious traumatic brain injury in the left frontal lobe of Jones' brain, referring to the injury as a decompressed skull fracture. The testimony aligned with earlier statements made by the defense team early on in the trial, in which it told the jury Jones was involved in a bad car accident as a teenager when he received the injury.
Snyder testified people with serious brain injuries such as Jones' can experience different symptoms, such as lower IQs and trouble focusing, but that not everyone experiences the same side effects. He also testified to the likelihood of a schizophrenia diagnosis based on an MRI scan.
"You can have injuries to the corpus callosum, in a traumatic brain injury, but it could potentially relate to schizophrenia or schizoid-effective type disorders, it's a positive correlation," he said. "It's very difficult to diagnosis schizophrenia from an MRI. I want to be clear to the jury, to diagnose schizophrenia from an MRI is very difficult."
Snyder went on to testify that based on current scientific research, there is no evidence of traumatic brain injuries causing schizophrenia.
"I don't think its accepted medical fact that a traumatic brain injury causes schizophrenia, there may be some research that talks about it but schizophrenia does not have known cause, it's multi-factorial," he testified.
After lunch on Wednesday, the defense called Sgt. Adam Creech to the stand. He worked as the lead investigator on the case for the Lexington County Sheriff's Department in 2014. Creech, along with FBI Agent David Mackey, who testified last week, both interviewed Jones in Smith County, Mississippi after he was arrested at a traffic safety checkpoint. Aware that his children were missing, the two interviewed Jones for more than two hours after he agreed to sign a waiver of his rights.
Much of Creech's testimony on Wednesday mirrored that of Mackey, who walked the jury through the intimate details of the killings, as were told to him by Jones.
"During that we kind of asked him about what his thoughts were about what happened to the children, I thought this was a pretty notable statement of his," Creech testified. "He said 'part of me feels like I'm their father and no father should do this to his children and a part of me says, f*** it, they're already dead.'"
He told the jury a story told several times before on the stand, that Jones told investigators he was upset with his six-year-old son Nahtahn on the night of Aug. 28, 2014, after he discovered several of the electrical sockets in the home were blown.
"He said Nahtahn threatened him saying 'when I grow up I'm going to kill you' and then he said his son Elias said 'I'm going to cut people up and feed them to dogs," Creech told the jury.
Jones then confessed to strangling the four other children, while maintaining his story that he discovered the six-year-old dead in his bed after forcing him to do hours of physical exercise.
Defense attorneys asked Creech about the tape recorder used during the initial interview, which in previous testimony it was explained the recorder was not recording for the first hour and a half of the interview with Jones.
"Tim finally admits he killed the children and goes into intimate details about what happened," Creech said. "Shortly after we had gone through all that, we realized we needed to check the recorder and to my embarrassment this day, we thought it had been running the whole time but it actually had not been ever turned on properly. It was the first time we had ever used it and I know my nerves were through the roof, but I'll take the blame for that."
After turning the tape recorder on, Creech said he and Agent Mackey had Jones summarize what had been talked about before.
Defense attorney Boyd Young also played an additional interview conducted by Creech inside the car as they returned with Jones from where he had dumped the children's bodies in Alabama. As the 25-minute recording played, Jones was often crying in the courtroom, dabbing his eyes with a blue handkerchief.
In that recording, Jones told Creech voices inside his head told him to do different things to the bodies, such as burn them or mutilate them, but that he couldn't bring himself to do so.
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