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Abducted girls safe, suspect wounded

Authorities gather near the SUV that Jones crashed while being pursued.
Authorities gather near the SUV that Jones crashed while being pursued.

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The search for a man suspected of killing four family members and abducting three others ends in a wreck in Tennessee.
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Earlier, Georgia investigators detailed the hunt for the suspect.
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EAST RIDGE, Tennessee (CNN) -- The man sought by the FBI in the abduction of three girls and the slayings of four people apparently shot himself while being pursued Thursday evening, police said.

The suspect, Jerry William Jones, is in critical condition after surgery, according to the Web site for Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The three little girls were taken to T. C. Thompson Children's Hospital, also in Chattanooga, where they were treated and released Thursday night.

Jones, pursued Thursday night by officers on Interstate 75 just north of the Tennessee state line, crashed the SUV he was driving and then apparently turned his gun on himself, firing a shot to his face.

Video from the scene showed Jones with a newly shaved head, face down on a stretcher and handcuffed. At least two little girls with blond hair were seen being carried to a waiting ambulance by police officers.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead said Georgia officers received a tip that Jones' vehicle was heading north on I-75 toward Chattanooga, Tennessee. A motorist saw the Amber Alert issued for the girls, enabling police to locate him late Thursday. As they pursued Jones, a Georgia State Patrol car bumped the SUV, causing it to spin out on the rain-slicked road and slam into a telephone pole.

Authorities said that after the crash, the oldest girl jumped out. Jones was slumped in the driver's seat and the youngest of the girls was sitting behind the driver's seat covered in blood from his gunshot wound.

The abducted children are identified as 10-year-old Brittney Phelps, 4-year-old Brandy Jones and 3-year-old Tammy Jones.

Bankhead said the younger girls are Jones' daughters, and the 10-year-old is Jones' estranged wife's daughter from a previous marriage.

"The Lord was riding with the deputy sheriffs and state patrol tonight, and He was definitely looking out for the children," said Vernon Keenan, the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Bankhead said investigators were "elated" over the news of Jones' capture.

"They were just extremely concerned about the welfare of these other kids, and so they are very elated about what has transpired," Bankhead said.

'Very violent' crime scene

Gordon County Sheriff Jerry Davis said Jones is charged with killing the parents and sister of his estranged common-law wife along with his baby daughter.

Authorities and relatives identified the dead as Jerry Georgia Jones, age 10 months; her grandparents, Tommy and Nola Blaylock, and their daughter, Georgia Bradley.

Keenan described the crime scene as "very violent."

Police said Jones apparently cleaned up the grisly crime scene before fleeing.
Police said Jones apparently cleaned up the grisly crime scene before fleeing.

"Several of the victims have suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and the infant appears to have been strangled," he said.

Jones called his estranged wife, who was in Oregon at the time, to tell her about the killings and warned her he would hurt the surviving girls if she reported the crimes, Davis said.

Davis said Jones' wife called the Gordon County Sheriff's Department at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday to report that Jones had told her he had killed her family. When deputies first went to the home, they looked in through the windows and saw nothing amiss, he said.

Deputies went to the home after a second call at about 11 p.m., he said.

"The lady explained to us that he had done harm to her mother and daddy," Davis said. "A senior officer took it on his own to enter the home, and when he entered the home that's when we found the bodies." One body was also found in the yard, another in a neighboring trailer home.

Keenan said Jones appeared to have taken time after the killings to clean the crime scene and hide the bodies.

Deputies were unable to issue an Amber Alert until shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday because they did not know what kind of car Jones was driving, Davis said. "It took several hours to determine what type of vehicle was missing from the residence and to determine the tag number," he said.

Jones, 31, was considered armed and extremely dangerous. The FBI sought a nationwide fugitive warrant for him.

'We're just glad the nightmare is over for them'

Stacey Worthington, a relative of the slain victims, said the capture is a "big relief to us all," but he stressed the family is worried about the children's health for going through such a harrowing ordeal.

"It's just really bad that little girls have got to go through this -- not only the police chase and the self-inflicted gunshot wound, but the stuff they had to go through the night everything took place," he said.

David O'Donnell, who identified himself as Jones' brother-in-law, said he was "elated" his nieces were safe after the trauma they had been through.

"They witnessed a quadruple homicide," he said. "They've witnessed hours of a police chase, probably had guns to their heads, being threatened. We're just glad the nightmare is over for them."

O'Donnell said Jones' relationship with the girls' mother, Melissa, collapsed over Christmas, and that Jones had threatened to start killing people if she left him.

"Melissa had made an attempt to leave Jerry Jones, and he had made idle threats to do exactly what he has done," O'Donnell said on CNN's "Paula Zahn Now."

A source close to the family told CNN that Jones has threatened relatives repeatedly in the past, calling Jones "crazy, unpredictable and threatening."

In 1999, a relative in Georgia obtained a restraining order against him, the source said, but investigators said they were unaware of any such order.

Jones' mother and stepfather died in the 1996 crash of Valujet Flight 592 into the Everglades, a source close to the family told CNN. His older brother, Chad, died in 2000.

CNN correspondents Mike Brooks, Martin Savidge and Kris Osborn contributed to this report.

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