ELLIJAY, Ga. – The frantic manhunt for a jealous ex-husband who allegedly killed three former in-laws and his infant daughter before fleeing with three young girls ended near the Tennessee line when the suspect shot himself in the face during a police chase.
Jerry William Jones (search), 31, was in critical condition and under armed guard Friday morning at a Chattanooga, Tenn., hospital, but was expected to survive, authorities said.
The girls -- his 10-year-old former stepdaughter and two of his daughters, ages 3 and 4 -- were unharmed following the pursuit late Thursday, and were released to the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (search), said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan.
Family members and officials expected the girls would be reunited Friday with their mother, who was flown back to Georgia by the FBI (search) early Friday after being stranded for two days in Oregon by an ice storm.
"They are beautiful little girls," the girls' aunt, Kathy O'Donnell, told The Associated Press at her home in Ellijay. "Brittany, the oldest one, is very smart. I'm sure she did whatever she could to take care of her sisters. She always does."
O'Donnell, whose parents, sister and infant niece were killed, said she wants Jones to survive the gunshot.
"I want to see him in the courtroom," she said. "I want him to have to live with this everyday. I would want to know why he did this and what my mother did so bad that he had to put her through the hell he did. And my 10-month-old niece. Why would he do that to her?"
Jones, who has a criminal history that includes convictions for burglary and auto theft, is accused of shooting to death his ex-wife's parents, Tom and Nola Blaylock, and her sister Georgia Bradley, and strangling his infant daughter, then driving off with his other daughters and stepdaughter in a stolen sport utility vehicle.
Authorities said the motive appeared to be jealousy.
Jones had called his ex-wife, Melissa Peeler, late Wednesday and told her of the killings, said David O'Donnell, his former brother-in-law. Jones told her he would "start killing the kids one by one" if she alerted authorities, he said.
Peeler, who had left the children with her parents and sister before leaving for Oregon to visit her boyfriend over the Christmas holidays, called police, David O'Donnell said.
She tried to fly home immediately but her flight was delayed by an ice storm, he said. Friday morning, she was flown back to Georgia aboard an FBI plane, Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead said. She was expected to be reunited with her surviving daughters later in the day.
After a public alert was issued for the missing girls Thursday, police in Whitfield County got a tip that Jones' vehicle had been spotted headed north on Interstate 75 toward Tennessee, about 50 miles north of Ranger, where the slayings occurred.
Keenan said deputies spotted the car and saw the children, but Jones refused to pull over. He drove a short way off the interstate when a state trooper bumped the back of the car, forcing it to spin and crash into a telephone pole.
The 10-year-old got out and ran, and officers saw Jones slump in the front seat, Keenan said. They pulled the other children out, one of them covered in Jones' blood, he said.
The bullet went through Jones' chin and out his upper jaw, East Ridge, Tenn., Police Lt. Tim Mullinax said.
"I foresee him being in the hospital probably two or three more weeks," Mullinax said. "His bottom jaw and the roof of his mouth have got to be replaced. It was pretty well blown off."
Bankhead said investigators would compare the weapon found with Jones to determine if it was used in Wednesday's shootings.
The girls, Brandy Jones, 4, and Tammy Jones, 3, and Brittany Phelps, 10, were released from a Chattanooga hospital late Thursday.
David and Kathy O'Donnell both said Jones was constantly threatening the family with violence and that Peeler had been trying to get away from him.
Georgia Bradley's 16-year-old son, Terry Baker, was at a friend's house when his mother was killed.
"I want him to sit and rot in jail," Baker said of Jones. "Why'd he killed my mama and my grandparents? They wouldn't hurt nobody."
Officials say Peeler and Jones were never legally married but had a common-law marriage.
Jones' mother and stepfather were killed in the 1996 ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades, and David O'Donnell said Jones got a substantial settlement.
"He blew the money almost as fast as he got it, mostly on drugs," he said.