SE Woman Says Four Daughters Were 'Possessed'

By Allison Klein, Keith L. Alexander and Sue Anne Pressley Montes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 11, 2008

A Southeast Washington woman accused of killing her four daughters told police that they were "possessed by demons" and that they had been dead for at least four months before marshals found their bodies, according to police and charging papers filed yesterday.

Authorities said they believe the girls, ages 5, 6, 11 and 17, could have been killed as early as May, noting that the bodies were in an advanced stage of decomposition when discovered Wednesday by marshals serving eviction papers at the two-story brick rowhouse. The mother, Banita Jacks, lived a hermitic existence with the bodies upstairs, in a house that had its electricity cut off in September.

Authorities said that Jacks has denied killing the children and said they died in their sleep. Prosecutors said evidence shows otherwise. Brittany Jacks, 17, had three puncture wounds consistent with a stabbing near the neck, they said. Tatianna Jacks, 11, and N'Kiah Fogle, 6, had marks suggesting they were strangled. Aja Fogle, 5, had less-pronounced marks consistent with strangling and signs of blunt-force trauma to the back of her head, prosecutors said.

Jacks, 33, was charged yesterday with murder. While she was being ordered jailed without bond by a judge in D.C. Superior Court, city officials were investigating how government agencies failed to identify a family in trouble. Among the questions: How could Jacks's children disappear for so long without school officials, police or social workers noticing and stepping in to help? Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) promised some answers today.

Some who knew the family said that troubles spiraled in February when Nathaniel Fogle Jr., the father of two of the girls, died of cancer. Soon after his death, Jacks cleared the first floor of furniture, and she grew increasingly distant, they said. At one point, she put an Xbox game system in the front yard of the home, in the 4200 block of Sixth Street SE, and invited neighbors to take it.

Several relatives stopped by the house to visit or to deliver child support checks, but Jacks didn't answer the door. Jacks sometimes telephoned after the visits and reported that everything was under control, they said.

"Sometimes she wouldn't answer the door," recalled Tywana Richardson, godmother to the two youngest girls, who said she tried to stay in touch with the family after Fogle's death. "No one would answer the door. That happened a lot. . . . When I kept going and she wasn't there, I figured she had upped and moved."

The last time Richardson saw Jacks was sometime in July, she said. She handed her the mail through the door; Jacks did not invite her in. "They could have been dead while I was over there; I don't know," Richardson said.

D.C. Child and Family Services received a report about the family in April, but officials have not divulged the nature of the notice. Mindy Good, an agency spokeswoman, said yesterday that investigators went to the residence three times, once accompanied by D.C. police. Good said D.C. police also went to the home once on their own. But no one was able to locate the family.

In June, D.C. officials contacted their counterparts in Charles County, where Jacks has relatives, saying they had information that the family was moving there. But Charles social service workers were unable to find them, officials said.

School officials apparently detected no problems. The oldest girl, a student at Booker T. Washington Public Charter School, stopped attending classes months ago. The other girls attended Meridian Public Charter School in Northwest Washington until March, when Jacks withdrew them, saying she planned to home-school them.

Nona Mitchell Richardson, spokeswoman for the D.C. Public Charter School Board, said it has no policy governing what should happen when a charter school student is withdrawn for home schooling. She said neither the board nor the schools tracked the students after the mother pulled them out of school.

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