September 20, 2014

Accused Lexington County father avoids hearing, on suicide watch

Timothy Jones (Lexington County Sheriff's Department)

Timothy Jones (Lexington County Sheriff’s Department)

A Lexington County man accused of murdering his five children and eventually dumping their bodies in Alabama has waived his right to a bond hearing, saying in a statement that he does not want to be “parading” in front of the media.

Tim Jones, Jr., 32, made the comment in a brief filed by his attorneys before a scheduled bond hearing Friday morning.

“Since this hearing is for the sole purpose of parading me in front of the media, it is my wish to waive my appearance,” the brief stated.

Jones will stay in a state prison until his next court appearance in November. Lexington County Lewis McCarty had said he believed Jones’ life would be at risk if he was kept in the Lexington County Detention Center.

“I would be concerned about his safety in the Lexington County jail,” McCarty told reporters earlier this week. Jones has been placed on suicide watch.

His attorney Aimee Zmroczek said her client knows he is being “portrayed as a monster,” in the public eye.

“He’s just a man and he’s trying to deal with the situation,” Zmroczek told reporters after the hearing.

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Case timelines: murdered Jones children had been in SC DSS oversight

The children of Tim Jones, Jr. had been under state oversight off and on over the past three years, according to South Carolina Department of Social Services case files released late Wednesday night.  None of the complaints resulted in any of the children being taken away from Jones or his now-estranged wife.

Jones has been charged in the murder of his five children after his extradition back to South Carolina from Mississippi. Officials said Jones confessed to dumping the bodies of the children, ages 1 to 8 years old, and told investigators where the bags of decomposing bodies were located on the side of a rural Alabama road. Smith County (MS) sheriff’s deputies had detained Jones after his arrest for controlled substances during a traffic stop. Deputies also discovered bleach, blood, and children’s clothing in the car.

The first complaint against Jones took two years to close, according to the reports released by DSS on Wednesday.

In a press conference Wednesday, DSS’s new law enforcement liaison Jackie Swindler, acknowledged that a new case had been opened August 7, 2014.

“On that day, a seasoned DSS worker from Lexington County, along with Lexington County deputies, went to the scene and interviewed the children, interviewed Mr. Jones, interviewed neighbors,” Swindler told reporters. “At that time, there was nothing to alarm them immediately, there was nothing that showed that the children were in any kind of imminent danger or peril at that time. The case was still open. It was still being investigated.”

DSS was required to do a follow-up visit within 45 days of the open complaint. The time had not elapsed when the children were reported missing on September 3.

A complaint filed with Lexington DSS on September 16, 2011 resulted in repeated requirements for the home to be cleaned and cleared of dangerous tools, trash, debris and
items that could harm the children. On a follow-up caseworker visit, Tim Jones was reported to have been combative. Over the next few months, DSS followed up on what was classified as a form of neglect, see below:



In late May of 2012, caseworkers found the Jones couple had marital troubles (“CM” is short for Case Manager)

excerpt 2


By June 26, 2012, the parents were struggling over custody of their now four children. By Aug. 16 of that year, Tim Jones had fled to Mississippi with them and his wife was pregnant with another child. Because he was now out of the state, the case was closed on October 16, 2012.

But DSS involvement was far from over.

Mr. Jones was back in Lexington County when caseworkers responded to a child abuse allegation at his home on May 5, 2o14.  The mother had left him and was sharing occasional visits with the children. He now had custody of their five children.

Case managers and law enforcement followed up at the school and home over the next few weeks and reported the children seemed fine, but “Dad appears to be overwhelmed as he is unable to maintain the home.” Mr. Jones was an engineer with Intel and had been doing construction work on the family’s home during previous visits. That case was closed July 24.

A school official next alerted DSS a month and a half later, on Sept. 3:

excerpt 3

This is the case that remained open when police found Jones at motor vehicle safety checkpoint in Raleigh County, Mississippi on Saturday, Sept. 6.  Deputies report that he was under the influence of something and that the car reeked of “death.”

Wednesday, WIS-TV reported that prosecutors say they found notes of violence against the children.

 *Names blacked out are caseworkers, witnesses and victims as required by law.



Sheriff: Charleston County deputy was killed by AK-47 round in shootout


Deputy Joe Matuskovic (Image: Charleston County Sheriff's Office)

Deputy Joe Matuskovic died after he was hit by rounds from an AK-47, according to Sheriff Cannon (Image: Charleston County Sheriff’s Office)

The Charleston County Sheriff said Wednesday that a man who shot and killed a deputy Monday night was using an AK-47 he had legally purchased.

Sheriff Al Cannon made the comments during a briefing with reporters two days after the fatal shootout in a West Ashley apartment complex. Deputy Joseph Matuskovic died soon after the suspect Michael Oswald, 38, opened fire through an apartment door as Matuskovic and another deputy stood on the other side. The second deputy Michael Ackerman was seriously injured by a bullet hitting his leg. Ackerman was out of surgery on Wednesday and the Sheriff’s Office said he is now able to move with the help of a walker.

Cannon said both officers were wearing traditional body armor at the time, but it was no match for the AK-47 rounds. “The soft body armor that he was wearing did not, and it’s not really designed to, stop that powerful a round,” Cannon said.

The sheriff also revealed that a third deputy, one of two off-duty officer who had been providing “courtesy” security at the Gardens on Ashley River apartments that evening, was also wounded by a bullet fragment to the hip. The two off-duty deputies had accompanied Matuskovic and Ackerman, but did not go to the door. Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas told reporters Tuesday that at least one of the off-duty deputies had returned fire.

Cannon confirmed for the first time Wednesday that it was the return fire which killed Oswald. Previously, the Charleston County Coroner’s Office had been reluctant to say whether deputies killed the gunman or if the fatal wound was self-inflicted.

Now investigators are trying to determine why Oswald opened fire that night. The deputies had been called to the apartments after reports that a drunken man (believed to be Oswald) was banging on doors at the complex.

The sheriff said there was nothing to indicate the deputies’ lives would be in danger when they responded. “Here was a situation where there was not any significant information with respect to this individual either being armed or being a threat to do what he did,” Cannon told reporters.

Oswald had a minor criminal record that included a hit-and-run conviction last year. He was also arrested for simple assault in 2007 and again for illegal possession of a concealed weapon (recorded only as a weapon that was “not a pistol”) in 2013. Both the latter charges were dropped. He did not have a recorded history of mental health problems, Cannon said, and did not appear to have received help for substance abuse problems. Officials are still waiting on toxicology tests to determine if Oswald had any kind of drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the shooting.

An ATF investigation found the AK-47 was legally purchased and Oswald had a concealed carry permit.

Cannon said there are heavier types of body armor which may have been able to hold up against an AK-47 round, but they are too bulky for use outside of a SWAT team. The sheriff said everyday armor is meant to protect the officer against whatever caliber handgun he or she carries (under the assumption that a criminal could seize control of the officer’s weapon).

Harrell responds to indictment: I have never intentionally violated any law

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

State House Speaker Bobby Harrell said Wednesday that he never intentionally violated South Carolina campaign finance laws.

Harrell made the statement only hours after it was revealed a grand jury indicted him on nine counts related to accusations of misusing campaign funds, then lying about it in documents filed with state ethics officials.

“I have said all along that I have never intentionally violated any law, and I still strongly believe that statement to be accurate,” Harrell said in a statement released by his office.

“In no way have I ever benefited personally or financially from travel reimbursements from my campaign account. In fact, I have regularly used the privately raised funds from my campaign account to pay for official state travel instead of passing that cost along to taxpayers. Similarly, I have often used my own airplane, at no cost to the taxpayers, for official state travel when it would have been completely justifiable to have used the taxpayer-funded state plane instead.”

“If over the course of four years, I mistakenly wrote down the wrong date on a handful of items, that is something that can easily be addressed.”

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Speaker Bobby Harrell indicted on nine counts

SC House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston)

SC House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston)

State House Speaker Bobby Harrell has been indicted on nine total counts, including misconduct in office, using campaign funds for personal use, and false reporting on his campaign disclosures.

Harrell’s indictment by the Richland County Grand Jury  was announced Wednesday by First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, who took over the case after Attorney General Alan Wilson removed himself last month.  The nine indictments are for two counts of Misconduct in Office (statutory and common law), six counts of Using Campaign Funds for Personal Use, and one count of False Reporting Candidate Campaign Disclosures.

A bond hearing date has not been set. The release said Speaker Harrell has received a copy of his indictment, but will be allowed to continue with a formal proceeding.

“At this point in the process, the indictments are mere accusations,” Pascoe said in a release. “Mr. Harrell is presumed innocent until proven guilty.” The First Circuit Solicitor said he will have no further comment regarding this matter.

Neither Harrell nor his spokesman have commented on the indictments. The Speaker has repeatedly insisted he did nothing illegal and, as recently as last month, had expressed confidence he would not be indicted.

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