Army major and wife charged with 'unimaginable' abuse of 3 children
By Jason Grant
Army Maj. John E. Jackson and his wife, Carolyn, took in two foster children in June 2008 while they were living at the Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County. Three years before, they had taken in another child. But according to federal authorities, the home into which they brought the children was filled with anything but love.
In public statements and a searing 22-page indictment unveiled in federal court yesterday, authorities say Jackson — a military veteran who entered the Army in 1993 and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan — and his wife introduced the children, whom they later adopted, to the "unimaginable" living hell they’d created for the children's adopted sibling.
It was a hell, authorities say, that included not only beatings with a "deadly weapon," fractured bones, and the withholding of food and water, but also a home in which the couple instructed their older and stronger biological children to help with the abuse.
For instance, the indictment says, the couple blocked one of their foster children from access to water, then forced an older child to "watch over to prevent (the child) from drinking out of sinks and toilet bowls."
Yesterday, the Jacksons, who according to reports on the conservative website "WorldNetDaily" lost custody of five children in 2010, were brought into a courtroom in Newark and were promptly detained, pending a bail hearing tomorrow, authorities said.
Carolyn Jackson, 35, was arrested at the couple’s home in Mount Holly yesterday morning while her 37-year-old husband surrendered to authorities, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said.
Facing 17 counts, including numerous charges of endangering the welfare of a child and assault, both Jacksons face a maximum of 10 years in prison on each count if convicted.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Children and Families said yesterday she couldn’t comment on any matter involving the Jacksons and their children, citing confidentiality laws.
Defense lawyers for the couple did not return phone calls for comment yesterday. But Fishman made it clear he believes the couple deserves harsh punishment.
"Carolyn and John Jackson are charged with unimaginable cruelty to children they were trusted to protect," Fishman said in a statement. "The crimes alleged should not happen to any child, anywhere, and it is deeply disturbing that they would happen on a military installation."
At the same time, Fishman’s office confirmed the Jacksons’ five children are in the custody of the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
According to the indictment and authorities, the Jacksons conspired from 2005 to 2010 — while living at Picatinny — to engage in a constant course of neglect and cruelty toward three children they fostered and then adopted, one of whom died in May 2008.
Authorities have declined to provide the names, genders and ages of the children, and the indictment does not allege the Jacksons are responsible for the death of the one child.
But in nightmarish detail, the indictment explains how they told their three biological children not to report the physical assaults on the younger children, saying the punishments and disciplinary techniques were justified, as they were "training" them how to behave.
And, it says, after John Jackson was told by a family friend that one of the children had reported the alleged abuse, he told his wife, who retaliated against that child with multiple beatings with a belt.
Moreover, the indictment says, the Jacksons assaulted their foster and adopted children with various objects, causing two of them to suffer fractured bones for which the couple failed to seek prompt medical attention.
And as another form of punishment, the couple forced two of the children to eat food intended to cause them pain and suffering, including red pepper flakes, hot sauce and raw onion, the indictment says. They also forced one child to ingest excessive sodium or sodium-laden substances while being deprived of water, leading to a life-threatening illness, authorities allege.
According to "WorldNetDaily" reports from 2011 — one of which is headlined, "Father: ‘My children are being held hostage’" — the Jacksons are "devout Christian homeschoolers with a history of serving as adoptive and foster parents." The couple also waged a fierce legal battle in Morris County after they lost custody of their children in 2010, according to the online report.
The same article also states John Jackson had accused state protective services in 2011 of fraudulently misrepresenting statements by himself and his children to build a case against him, "brainwashing" the children by telling them they have been abused and "isolating" them by not allowing them to be assessed independently by U.S. Army investigators.
Jackson served in Iraq and Afghanistan between February 2009 and March 2010 as part of the Joint Contracting Command — Iraq/Afghanistan, where he received the defense meritorious service medal while working as a contractor.
In the Jacksons’ Mount Holly neighborhood yesterday, residents expressed shock at the allegations against the couple.
"Every time I saw them walking, they always seemed like a happy family," said Donna Delgado, a neighbor. "... I’ve got three kids, I’ve got three grand kids, I don’t like people hitting kids. I don’t like abusers."
"It’s sad because you live next door to them and you have no idea," said Kofi Lightfoot, another neighbor. "They seem like really nice people, but I’ve never had a conversation with them. The dad is in the Army and that’s all I know. You have no idea who you live around."