South Carolina father accused of killing his five children is in 'mental disarray': lawyer
Crime scene tape is seen on May 13, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois [AFP]

A father who is accused of killing his five children in South Carolina and dumping their bodies in rural Alabama is scared and remorseful, and his family fears he suffers from an untreated mental illness, an attorney said on Friday.

Timothy Ray Jones Jr., 32, was arrested on murder charges on Thursday after police said they had evidence the divorced father with a criminal past had killed the kids, ages 1 to 8, at their home in Lexington.

Earlier this week, after being arrested on unrelated charges in Mississippi, police said Jones confessed to the slayings and led them to the children's bodies, which he had wrapped in trash bags and left in the woods near Camden, Alabama.

"We are concerned that he is suffering from an untreated mental illness," lawyer Aimee Zmroczek, who was hired by Jones's family, said in an interview. "He's already been judged, and they're not asking the questions as to why this happened or how this happened."

She declined to give details about Jones' possible mental illness, but said his family was concerned it would be exacerbated as long as he is held in isolation in jail.

Jones waived his first court appearance in South Carolina on Friday and is next due in court in November.

"He is very tearful, remorseful, scared and I think in a state of mental disarray," she said.

A church memorial service was being held in Amory, Mississippi, on Friday for Jones' two girls and three boys, all shown smiling in family photographs released by police. Investigators are still trying to determine how the kids died.

Reports of abuse and neglect of the children had prompted child protection workers to visit the family at least a dozen times since 2011, state records released Thursday showed.

Notes from the workers' most recent visit on Aug. 7 said that Jones, who had legal custody of the kids, seemed overwhelmed. But the state's social services department never removed the children from his care.

Jones has a computer engineering degree and worked for Intel in Columbia, South Carolina. He was released from prison in Illinois in 2003 after serving time on charges that included possession of a stolen vehicle, theft, burglary, forgery and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Editing by Bernadette Baum)