Sister remembers Elkhart native mom, 4 children found dead in Georgia

Published: Sep. 17, 2019 at 6:30 PM EDT
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16 News Now is learning more about Casei Jones and her four children, who were


Jones was an Elkhart native who


Those who knew Jones, 32, say she was a caring person who adored her children.

Sarah Gilbert, Jones' older sister, described the victim as a "mom first" who "lived and breathed her babies". She said Jones was "bubbly, yet matter of fact" and was the "life of the party".

Gilbert said her younger sibling moved to Florida, where their mother and other family members live. She worked as a transporter, taking people to and from appointments, and other engagements.

On Saturday, a family member called authorities in Marion County, Fla. to report that she hadn't seen or heard from Jones and her children for about six weeks. She was concerned that Jones' husband, Michael Wayne Jones Jr., 38, had done something to them.

Within those six weeks, Gilbert said family members received text messages from her sister's phone. During this time, she said Jones was dealing with Hurricane Dorian passing along the coast and she said her sister was also sick. The family became worried when the text messages stopped.

"When we heard the news about Casei, we had hope for the babies," Gilbert told 16 News Now. "You know, we wanted to make sure that we had every memory, every thought, anything and everything that we would have of Casei. We wanted the kids to live and breathe her like she did them. They were good kids."

On Saturday, a Marion County, Florida, deputy responded to their last known residence to find it had been vacant for several weeks. The property owner allowed the deputy inside the home, where the deputy detected "the foul odor of decomposition," according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

On Sunday, Georgia authorities detained Jones Jr. after he crashed his van in Brantley County. Ultimately, officers found his wife's body in his vehicle.

Hours later, Jones Jr. led detectives to the four missing children, who were identified as Cameron Bowers, 10; Preston Bowers, 5; Mercalli Jones, 2; and Aiyana Jones, 1.

Marion County authorities believe the suspect murdered his family in Florida before transporting them to Georgia.

Gilbert said the unexpected news tore out her family's heart.

"I'm just in shock that a human could do that to another human and to babies," Gilbert said. "I'm just shocked. I've never hated anybody in my life. But when you wish that the person murdering your family murders your sister first so that she doesn't have to see her babies die, I mean, there's no other word but hate."

Jones, Jr. is now charged with second-degree murder of Jones. NBC News reports he had not been charged in the children's deaths, but "more charges may be forthcoming", according to Marion County authorities.

Gilbert said the family is planning to create a GoFundMe account that will go toward funeral expenses.

Stay with 16 News Now as we continue to follow this developing story