It all started with a crash on a Georgia highway. When deputies arrived, they found Michael Wayne Jones Jr. and “smelled a foul odor” coming from his van.
Inside, cops said they found the body of his wife, Casei Jones. The dead woman could have been inside for a week or more. She hadn’t been seen for a month.
“‘You may want to put me in handcuffs because there was a dead body inside the vehicle,” Jones, 38, told deputies, according to the Brantley County Sheriff’s Office.
He then “admitted to concealing” other bodies just before the crash, deputies said. Jones then led them to woods in a neighboring county.
There, deputies found the remains of four children — possibly Casei Jones’ missing kids.
The couple had a home in Marion County, Florida.
“As a father, as a parent it breaks my heart,” Marion Sheriff Billy Woods said. “As a sheriff, it angers me.”
Casei Jones, 32, and her four children — Cameron Bowers, 10, Preston Bowers, 5, Mercalli Jones, 2, and Aiyana Jones, 1 — were reported missing Saturday night. Their family hadn’t seen or heard from them in six weeks, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
They were last seen in the Ocala area.
On Monday morning, deputies confirmed that Casei Jones was found dead in Georgia, about three hours away and around 170 miles from her home in Summerfield in Central Florida. They later confirmed finding the possible remains of Casei’s four children.
By Monday afternoon, officials believed that Casei and her children were killed in Marion County and that Michael Jones “stored the bodies at his home and in his van for several weeks before transporting them to Brantley County, Georgia.”
Mercalli and Aiyana, Casei’s youngest, were his biological children.
On the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, hundreds of commentators shared condolences and support for Jones’ grieving family. Others questioned why it took weeks for the family to realize that Jones and her children were missing.
A woman named Sarah Gilbert, who says she is Jones’ sister, responded.
“All you people that are saying why wait so long to report it just stop pls we are heart broken,” Gilbert wrote. “We were getting texts from who we thought was Casei so we didn’t know right away so just stop pls.”
A spokesman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to the Miami Herald that the text messages are a part of the investigation, but could not confirm if the woman posting on the sheriff’s office page was Jones’ sister.
“We suspect [Jones’ husband] was communicating on her behalf through her phone,” the spokesman said.
Gilbert also told WFTV-Channel 9 the family realized something was wrong when her sister didn’t post anything on Facebook.
“The red flag, which anybody that knew Casei, [was] when she didn’t post anything about her son’s birthday,” Gilbert told the news station.
Michael Jones was arrested and booked into a Georgia jail.
In Florida, a warrant for his arrest was issued for second-degree homicide. But more charges are pending, Sheriff Woods said. Three days after being arrested in Georgia, Michael Jones was taken and booked into the Marion County Jail. Early Thursday, a judge ordered for him to be held without bond during a hearing in Ocala.
An inmate search on Brantley County jail’s website shows Michael Wayne Jones was booked for driving with a suspended or revoked license, failing to maintain his vehicle in a lane (weaving over roadway) and for being a fugitive from justice.
Tuesday morning, Gilbert’s Facebook showed a new photo of a display board with photos of Casei and her children.
Vikki Jones, Casei’s mother, also updated her profile picture Monday and wrote “my beautiful baby girl is gone my beautiful Christmas present will still Sparkle.”
Anyone with information that can help detectives is asked to call 911 or the Marion County Sheriff’s Office at 352-732-9111.
Miami Herald staff writer Carli Teproff contributed to this report.