When a 38-year-old man crashed his van in Brantley County, Ga., on Sunday, he told responding officers that his dead wife was in the back of the vehicle, the police said. She had been dead for weeks.
The man, Michael Wayne Jones Jr., later told the police that he could lead them to the remains of his wife’s four children — Cameron Bowers, 10; Preston Bowers, 5; Mercalli Jones, 2; and Aiyana Jones, 1 — in nearby Charlton County.
Casei Jones, 32, of Summerfield, Fla., and her four children were declared missing on Saturday, but hadn’t been seen by her family in six weeks, the police said.
Mr. Jones was charged Sunday with second-degree murder in his wife’s killing. The department is still working with the state attorney’s office on the children’s deaths. The authorities said two of the children were Mr. Jones’s.
“As a father, as a parent, it breaks my heart,” Billy Woods, the sheriff of Marion County, Fla., said at a news conference Monday. “As a sheriff, it angers me to no end.”
After not seeing her daughter or grandchildren for weeks, Ms. Jones’s mother reached out to the Marion County Sheriff’s Department to report them as missing. She told the officials that she was worried that Mr. Jones had done something to them, according to police documents.
Ms. Jones’s mother thought she had been communicating with her daughter electronically for a couple of weeks, but that may not have been the case, said Sgt. Paul Bloom, an officer with the sheriff’s department. The department is still searching computer and phone records, he added.
After the missing persons investigation was initiated, a deputy was sent to the family’s last known address in Summerfield, which is around 150 miles south of where Mr. Jones crashed his van. The residence was vacant and had been for several weeks, and the deputy detected the “foul odor of decomposition” in the house, according to police records.
The house was deemed a potential crime scene, and Ms. Jones and her children were classified as missing and endangered.
Based on the evidence and interviews with Mr. Jones, investigators believe he killed the victims at home, then stored their bodies there and in his van for several weeks before transporting them to Georgia.
“As far as I’m concerned, as the sheriff of this county, underneath the jail ain’t good enough,” Sheriff Woods said at the news conference. “He has no right to walk the face of this earth.”
Autopsies for all five victims will be conducted in Charlton County on Wednesday, Sgt. Bloom said.
“We’ve never been to the house before on any calls and had no dealings with this couple prior to now,” Sgt. Bloom said. “The ‘why’ is a question everyone wants to know, but we don’t know.”