A jury this week recommended the death penalty for a 41-year-old man in Florida who confessed to killing his wife and their four young children.
A jury of nine men and three women on Thursday unanimously voted in favor of the death penalty for Michael Wayne Jones Jr., who brutally beat Casei Jones to death with a metal baseball bat before strangling his 9-year-old and 4-year-old stepsons to death and then drowning his 2-year-old and 11-month-old biological daughters, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.
Jones pleaded guilty in December to four counts of first-degree murder in the children’s deaths and one count of second-degree murder in Casei’s death. The jury unanimously recommended death on all four counts of first-degree murder.
In Florida, defendants convicted of first-degree murder can be put to death if the jury unanimously recommends such an outcome, while the maximum penalty for second-degree murder is life in prison.
The decision will ultimately be left up to Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Anthony M. Tatti, who has not yet scheduled a date for Jones’ sentencing hearing, according to the online docket.
According to court documents, on Sept. 14, 2019, deputies with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office responded to a welfare check on Casei and the children requested by Casei’s mother, Nikki Jones. Jones said she had not seen or heard from her daughter or grandchildren in several weeks and was “concerned that Michael Jones had done something to them.”
Deputies arrived at the home in the 14000 block of S.E. 86th Terrace but initially said the residence appeared to have been vacant for several weeks. Once inside, deputies immediately “detected the foul odor of decomposition,” and the area was declared a crime scene.
Jones was initially detained on Sept. 15 in Georgia after the vehicle he was driving crashed into another car. When officers arrived on the scene he told them he had killed his wife and that her body was inside the vehicle. He later confessed to killing the children and led detectives to the locations where he discarded their bodies, police said.
“[I]n the following weeks, detectives believe he killed the two oldest children by strangulation and his two youngest children by drowning them,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a news release following the arrest.
The news release said he then left all of the bodies in the home for a few weeks before placing them into his van and keeping them there for the last two weeks before taking the victims to Brantley County, Georgia.
Jones has been detained at the Marion County Jail since he was extradited to Florida from Georgia.
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