A brain expert has testified that the Lexington, South Carolina man who is charged with killing his five children has suffered from long-term brain injuries.
In 2014, 37-year-old Timothy Jones, Jr. killed his five children. According to prosecutors, Jones killed his son Nahtahn, 6, after the boy broke an electrical outlet in their mobile home on August 28, 2014. Jones then strangled his 8-year-old daughter Merah and his 7-year-old son Elias with his hands. Jones then wrapped a belt around the necks of his 2-year-old son Gabriel and 1-year-old daughter Abigail and ended their lives.
Jones reportedly stuffed all of the bodies in garbage bags, loaded their remains into his Cadillac Escalade SUV and drove them through four different states. He finally dumped his children’s bodies in a deserted part of Camden, Alabama.
On September 6, 2014, Jones was arrested at a police checkpoint in Smith County, Mississippi after an officer detected what he described as “the smell of death” along with blood, maggots, and synthetic marijuana.
Under police questioning, Jones admitted to killing his children, but said that he did so as preemptive self-defense. Jones stated that he was worried that they would “chop him up and feed him to the dogs.”
Jones was charged with five counts of murder in connection with his children’s deaths. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
Jones’ defense team has conceded that Jones killed his children, but he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. In their opening statements, Jones’ lawyers claimed that he suffers from undiagnosed schizophrenia. Jones’ defense team brought in a brain expert to testify in his defense.
Dr. Travis Snyder is a neuro-radiologist from Las Vegas. He testified via prerecorded testimony about his examination of an MRI scan that was taken of Jones’ brain in April 2018. Dr. Snyder testified that he found evidence of “serious traumatic brain injury” in the left frontal lobe of Jones’ brain. He categorized this injury as a decompressed skull fracture. This testimony aligns with earlier defense statements that Jones was involved in a bad car accident as a teenager.
Dr. Snyder testified that people with injuries such as Jones’ may experience such symptoms as lower IQs and trouble focusing. However, not everyone has the same side effects. With regards to Jones’ MRI scan, Dr. Snyder testified that “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 . . . it’s very difficult to [diagnose] schizophrenia from an MRI. I want to be clear to the jury, to diagnose schizophrenia from an MRI is very difficult.” Dr. Snyder testified that the scan indicated a likelihood of a schizophrenia diagnosis.”
However, Dr. Snyder also testified that current scientific research does not indicate that traumatic brain injuries cause schizophrenia. He said, “I don’t think it’s accepted medical fact that a traumatic brain injury causes schizophrenia, there may be some research that talks about it but schizophrenia does not have [a] known cause, it’s multi-factorial.”
Notwithstanding Dr. Snyder’s testimony, the jury found Jones guilty. He has been sentenced to death.