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Man who beat wife to death with bat then strangled and drowned 4 young children sentenced to death

Michael Wayne Jones Jr. (News4Jax screen shot)

Michael Wayne Jones Jr. (News4Jax screenshot)

A state judge in Florida has sentenced a 41-year-old man to death for beating his wife to death with a metal baseball bat, then strangling his 9-year-old and 4-year-old stepsons to death and drowning his 2-year-old and 11-month-old biological daughters.

Just over three months after a jury of nine men and three women recommended the death penalty for Michael Wayne Jones Jr., Marion County Circuit Court Judge Anthony Tatti on Friday formally ordered that Jones be executed by the state, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

Tatti sentenced Jones to death for each of the four children’s murders. He also sentenced Jones to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering his wife, Casei Jones, and credited him with 1,322 days of time served.

Jones, in December, pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the children’s deaths and one count of second-degree murder in Casei’s death. Without the need for a trial to adjudicate his guilt, jurors were only brought in during the penalty phase of the case to decide whether Jones should be sentenced to life in prison without parole or be sentenced to death.

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.

Following Friday’s nine-minute hearing, Jones’ attorneys from the public defender’s office said they had been preparing their client for this outcome for several weeks and had already filed paperwork with the court to appeal the sentence, the Ocala StarBanner reported.

According to court documents, 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, on Sept. 14, 2019. 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, he told them he had killed his wife, and 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 left all of the bodies in the home for a few weeks before placing them in 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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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.