Oldest Girl Was Target of Mother's Wrath, Detective Testifies

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Banita Jacks, the Southeast Washington woman accused of killing her four children, referred to her eldest daughter as "Jezebel" and got into at least two fistfights with the teenager, a D.C. police detective testified yesterday.

At a pretrial hearing, Detective Mitchell A. Credle provided new details about Jacks's turbulent relationship with 16-year-old Brittany Jacks and the horrific conditions inside the family's Southeast rowhouse. It was there, authorities said, that Jacks killed her daughters and left their decaying bodies for months.

Jacks, 33, has been jailed on murder charges since Jan. 9, the day that U.S. marshals serving an eviction notice discovered the girls -- ages 5, 6, 11 and 16 -- in two upstairs bedrooms at the house on Sixth Street SE. Brittany was in one, a knife near her body, and her sisters were in another.

In his testimony yesterday, Credle said that all four girls suffered for months from neglect and starvation before they died but that Brittany was a special target of the wrath of her mother. The detective said that Jacks referred to Brittany as Jezebel, a wicked biblical character, and claimed that the girl was possessed by a "Jezebel demon" and was a bad influence on her sisters.

Credle quoted witnesses as saying that Jacks referred to Brittany -- an honors student until her mother pulled her out of school -- as a "whore" and a "prostitute." He did not give specifics about the fistfights they allegedly had.

In an eight-hour interview with police after her arrest, Jacks maintained that her daughters died in their sleep, Credle said. Jacks told the detectives that she would look at the little girls' bodies after they died, but never at Brittany's.

Jacks said she never considered calling police because she did not want to get into trouble, Credle testified.

Police are awaiting autopsy results to determine how the children died. Brittany had at least three puncture wounds in her abdomen consistent with a stabbing, police said. They said Tatianna Jacks, 11, and N'Kiah Fogle, 6, bore 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, police said.

Jacks told police that the weaker the children got, the weaker the demons got, Credle said. Jacks, who quoted the Bible during the interview with police, never admitted harming the children, he said.

Yesterday's proceedings in D.C. Superior Court detailed many warnings that the girls were in trouble -- and opportunities that were missed by neighbors, various agencies and others.

Credle revealed, for example, that Brittany ran away from home in January 2007 and stayed for a while with a neighbor. In March, Jacks showed up at the neighbor's home and ordered Brittany out of the house, he said.

At that time, Brittany was attending Booker T. Washington Charter School. But Jacks pulled her out of school March 9, fearing, she told police, that Brittany would run away from home again.

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