NBC10.com - Lori Wilson
Tuesday's arrest of a military couple accused of abusing their adopted children has brought back memories of another local case of child abuse. Lori Wilson takes a look back at the "other" Jackson family.
A shocking case of alleged child abuse has brought back memories of a similar case that happened a decade ago in South Jersey.
Army Major John Jackson and his wife Carolyn were arrested at their Mount Holly home Tuesday morning and indicted on 17 federal charges. The couple is accused of abusing their three foster children in various ways, including force-feeding them hot sauce, withholding water and breaking their bones.
As authorities continue to investigate, the case is reminding many of another “Jackson” couple, also accused of abuse.
Back on October 10, 2003, a neighbor found Bruce Jackson rummaging for food in a trash can in Collingswood, Camden County. Despite being 19-years-old, Bruce weighed 45 pounds and stood only four-feet tall.
Police raided Bruce’s home where he was staying with his three brothers and adopted parents. Inside the home, they found 9-year-old Michael, who only weighed 23 pounds, 10-year-old Tyrone, who only weighed 28 pounds and 14-year-old Keith, who only weighed 40 pounds. Officials say the kids were eating uncooked pancake batter and wallboard to survive.
Police arrested their foster parents, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson, charging them with 28 counts of child endangerment and aggravated assault. Raymond Jackson, 51, died of complications from a stroke on November 14, 2004, before the case went to trial. Vanessa Jackson ultimately pled guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Officials say during the time the four boys were starved, no one came forward, even though they were often seen in public. While child welfare workers visited the boys, in a settlement, the state of New Jersey admitted those workers didn’t protect the children. The state paid the boys $12.5 million, the largest settlement ever involving the Department of Human Services.
Ten years since Bruce was found, his siblings have made significant progress. Michael and Tyrone are Juniors and Seniors in High School while Keith is in college. The boys are honor students and involved in athletics.
The boys’ current adoptive father, James Parrish, spoke on the abuse accusations against John and Carolyn Jackson.
“How many children is it going to take to be damaged or possibly dead for someone to pay attention?” he asked.
Parrish believes the system still needs better accountability. While he admits the caseworkers have heavy loads, he also says more follow up is needed after children are adopted into families.
John and Carolyn Jackson were detained on Tuesday pending a bail hearing set for Thursday.