Man accused of starving adopted sons dies

Date: 2004-01-12
Source: www.app.com

Man accused of starving adopted sons dies

Published in the Asbury Park Press 12/01/04
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CAMDEN -- A man accused of starving his four adopted sons died yesterday morning, about two weeks after suffering a massive stroke, according to a longtime family friend.

Raymond Jackson, 51, had been in serious condition at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, according to published reports.

"I think he would still be alive if it wasn't for what he's been through," said Cherry Hill resident John Romaska, a friend of 22 years who received a call from Jackson's wife about the death.

Jackson died surrounded by family and friends, according to SaveTheJacksons.org on the Web. A secretary with the Come Alive New Testament Church in Medford,
where Jackson worshipped, confirmed his death. She declined to give her name.

The hospital, citing confidentiality rules, declined comment.

Jackson was hospitalized Nov. 14 with what church officials described as a massive stroke.

Jackson and his wife, Vanessa, 49, were each facing a total of 28 counts of aggravated assault and child endangerment charges stemming from their alleged
mistreatment of their four adopted sons.

The case drew national attention when they were arrested in October 2003 and was the subject of a congressional hearing. It also led to the speeding up of
reforms to New Jersey's child welfare system.

Bruce Jackson, then 19, was found foraging through the trash can of a neighbor in Collingswood for food. He was 4 feet tall and weighed 45 pounds -- about the
size of an average first-grader.

Authorities found that his three adopted brothers were similarly undersized and charged their adoptive parents.

Since 1991, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson had been foster and adoptive parents, taking in troubled children.

They, their lawyers and officials at the church, where they have long been members, have said the children suffered from eating disorders and were not starved by the couple.

Raymond and Vanessa had not spoken publicly about their case until a New York Magazine article that was published Nov. 15.

In it, Raymond described how Bruce would gorge himself and said that that troubled boy lied to police.

"I know Bruce loves us," Raymond Jackson told the magazine. "I know he does. But sometimes I think about how my life is completely turned around. And it's
because he told a lie. He told a lie on me. He told a lie on us."

Romaska, the family friend, said Jackson hadn't been feeling well for several weeks before going to the hospital.

"I think Raymond just didn't feel well anymore, and he didn't want to go to the hospital anymore because he was being hounded by the press," Romaska said.

But Jackson's faith remained strong, Romaska said.

Raymond Jackson had a career briefly in the 1970s and 1980s as a professional gospel singer. More recently, he had worked for a mortgage company.

But in the months leading up to the time he was charged in 2003, he struggled financially so much that the power was cut off in the Collingswood home his
family had rented.

The Jacksons were next due in court in December and a trial was expected sometime in 2005.

"This isn't the appropriate time to talk about the case or how to proceed," said Bill Shralow, a spokesman for the Camden County prosecutor. "This is a
time for Mr. Jackson's family to mourn and his friends to mourn."

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