MARION COUNTY, Fla. — The Marion County man accused of murdering his wife and her four children was a Navy corpsman before he worked at a veterinary hospital in Mount Dora.
Michael Jones was arrested in Georgia after deputies believe he killed his family in Florida and drove their decomposing bodies around in a van for weeks.
Jones’ friends said he was a hardworking veterinary technician at Mount Dora Veterinary Hospital.
“He was the guy. He'd see an old lady pull up with her animal. He would run out to the car and help her out and help her in with the animal, and everybody loved Mike,” said Beau Delaporte.
Beau and Casey Delaporte hired him, but they said he became much more than an employee.
“He was our best friend. I considered him a little brother. Our children even call him 'Uncle Mike.' He was great around his own kids and our kids,” said Casey Delaporte.
But over the years, that sparkling image began to fade. Jones’ first wife worked at the veterinary office, too, and he had three children with her.
It’s also the place he met Casei Bowers, the wife he’s now accused of murdering.
When he started the relationship with her, the Delaportes said they noticed he was telling lies.
“He told us his mother died, that she was an alcoholic, that she went out one night in a snowstorm and froze to death in a ditch, and he lived that lie for many months,” said Casey Delaporte.
In 2015, records show Jones was arrested on suspicion of armed burglary and grand theft. Deputies said he broke into the veterinary hospital and stole money and medicine.
Records also show Jones' then girlfriend, told deputies that "Jones had threatened her ex-husband at one point duing a child visitation" and "had also been in posession of a small firearm in the recent past."
The gun is believed to have been stolen from the veterinarian's office.
“He found out who you wanted him to be, and he was that person to you. So that’s his way of luring you in,” said Casey Delaporte.
The Delaportes parted ways with Jones after seeing that side of him but still never expected he could be accused of murdering a woman and four children.
“Now, he’s playing the victim. We see him walk on the news now, and he’s got that face where he’s trying to get everyone to feel sorry for him,” said Beau Delaporte.
Neighbors held a memorial outside the family's Summerfield home Thursday evening to remember the victims.
"It's devastating," said Lori Kunnert. "I have children. I have one that passed. I can't see how anybody could do that to their children."
Other neighbors told Channel 9 that they are still in shock over the tragedy.
"It's a very sad, disturbing situation," said Katrina Sesler. "I just feel for the family that has to go through their losses with this."
Officials said that Jones is cooperating with investigators, but they have not revealed how the victims died or why Jones allegedly killed them.
Records also show that Jones served in the Navy from 2000 to 2005.
In Orange County, veterans court allows veterans, under some circumstances, go through special programs to avoid prosecution and time behind bars.
Last year, the chief judge signed an order not allowing the released of those records, which means at this point, the public can't see how it handled the case of Jones.
The veterans court program helps treat people with substance abuse and mental health issues, which is typically why records like that aren't released.
In this case, there was no mention of drug abuse or mental health issues listed in the report.
Cox Media Group