A jury will decide the fate of a Florida man who beat his wife to death with a baseball bat in 2019 before murdering her four young children for several days and storing their bodies in tote bags.
Michael Wayne Jones, 41, has already pleaded guilty to the shocking murders, and the panel will now decide whether he receives a life sentence or the death penalty at his ongoing trial.
The defense attorney cites Jones’ deeply dysfunctional upbringing as the reason for the lesser sentence, while prosecutors push for his execution.
Jones told the arresting officers that the horrific killing spree began in July 2019 after his wife, Casei Jones, accused him of infidelity after looking into his phone.
He told police she shoved him with a baseball bat during an escalating argument at their Marion County home, and he beat her to death with it in a rage.
All four children – two of whom he fathered – were asleep at the time.
Jones wrapped his wife’s body in blankets, placed it in a large tote bag, and put it in a closet.
Plotting to pretend she was still alive, he used his cellphone to post to his social media accounts, according to the Ocala Star Banner.
The next day, Jones took his two stepchildren, Preston Bowers, 4, and Cameron Bowers, 8, to their father’s house as he frantically hatched a plan to cover up his wife’s murder.
He then dropped off the two daughters he shared with his wife, Mercalli Jones, 2, and Aiyana Jones, 11 months, with his wife’s mother.
But with the school year fast approaching, Jones worried that the boys’ absence would prompt questions from the staff at Fruitland Park Elementary.
A week before their class deadline, Jones dragged Cameron out of bed and strangled him to death on the floor, he told detectives. He then put the child’s body in a suitcase.
The next day, Jones said, he suffocated Preston with a zipper before drowning him in a bathtub and then putting his corpse in a suitcase.
Several days later, Jones told detectives, he drove with his two young daughters and parked outside a police station, planning to turn himself in.
But he ultimately backed out of the plan, opting instead to drown the two toddlers in a tub and put both of their bodies in one tote bag.
Shaken investigators asked Jones why he killed the children.
“I don’t know, it all came together and that seemed like the solution,” according to documents from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.
Jones was eventually arrested on September 15, 2019 after he was involved in a single-car accident and a deputy responded to the scene.
The officer immediately detected the overwhelming stench of a decomposing body and Jones told him to prepare handcuffs.
Investigators found his wife’s body in a tote bag in his van. Jones then led detectives to the children’s bodies, which he had dumped in a secluded wooded area.
His defense lawyers argue that his traumatic upbringing – including sexual assault by his father and abuse by an abusive stepfather – damaged his mental health from an early age. According to them, these factors call for life imprisonment rather than death.
They claim Jones – who also has three children from a previous marriage – went into a psychotic spiral that culminated in the murders.
But prosecutors reject those defenses, arguing that the heinous killings justified his execution.
A sister of Casei Jones testified at trial last week, tearfully telling the court that her nephew Cameron was a “sweet and loving little guy”, according to the outlet. She also described their two sisters as “princesses”.
The case continues this week.
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