Mother accused of starving adopted son

Date: 2006-02-09

Mother accused of  starving adopted son 

By Kristen A. Graham and John Shiffman | Feb 9, 2006

Bruce Jackson plans to have his day in court, facing the woman who has admitted to withholding food and medical care from him and three adopted brothers.

Now 21, Jackson weighed 45 pounds in October 2003 when he was found rummaging through a garbage can near his Collingswood home. Today, he weighs at least 140.

Tomorrow afternoon, his adoptive mother, Vanessa Jackson, is expected to be sentenced to seven years in prison for starving Jackson and his three adopted brothers.

"He has some very accusatory things to say," said Michael Critchley, Bruce Jackson's high-profile North Jersey attorney.

The statement is just over one page long - "something shorter than the Gettysburg Address," Critchley said.

Although Bruce Jackson has gained more than 100 pounds and grown more than a foot since being removed from the Jackson home, he lives under constant supervision in a state-run home and suffers lingering physical deficits and emotional trauma.

"If Bruce panics or decides he doesn't want to read his statement, we've arranged for it to be presented on videotape," Critchley said.

His attorney worries about the affect of his client's facing Vanessa Jackson, but the young man is firm - he's going.

"I tried to discourage him, because I'm not sure it's in his best interests, but he really wants to be there," Critchley said.

Bill Shralow, spokesman for Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi, said that Keith, Tyrone and Michael Jackson, now 16, 12, and 11, were all expected to submit written statements to the court.

It was not clear, Shralow said, whether they would be read into the record or simply handed in.

Two of the three younger Jackson brothers have been adopted, and the adoption of the third is pending.

The brothers' case became emblematic of New Jersey's broken child-welfare system.

In the fall, a judge approved a $12.5 million settlement for the four Jackson brothers, the largest award in the history of the Division of Youth and Family Services. New Jersey will pay Bruce Jackson $5 million, and each of the other brothers will get about $1.8 million.

That payout settled a lawsuit that blamed state social workers who visited the Jacksons' home on numerous occasions for overlooking their conditions.

Authorities have said that the brothers subsisted largely on pancake batter and oatmeal and at times gnawed on wallboard. The Jacksons' refrigerator was locked.

Despite the fact that free medical care was available to them, the boys were not taken to a doctor for years.

Vanessa Jackson pleaded guilty to one count of child endangerment. She previously maintained she was innocent, but the plea agreement spared her a trial and a potentially longer prison term.

The Jackson family's biological children and their adopted and foster daughters were well-fed, authorities said. The family frequently attended a church where apparently no one raised questions about the four brothers' conditions.

Supporters of the family have said Vanessa and Raymond Jackson, who died in 2004 after a stroke, were a loving couple who took in children no one else would care for. They say the four brothers all had preexisting conditions.

William Tambussi, a court-appointed guardian overseeing Bruce Jackson's money, said the conclusion of the Jackson case was welcome for many reasons.

"Bruce is very anxious to close this chapter of his life," Tambussi said.


Pound Pup Legacy