Relatives Push D.C. Officials To Release Bodies of 4 Girls

Banita Jacks has been charged with killing her four daughters, whose bodies were found decomposed.
Banita Jacks has been charged with killing her four daughters, whose bodies were found decomposed. (Associated Press)
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By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 23, 2008

Relatives of the four girls whose decomposing bodies were found Jan. 9 in a Southeast Washington rowhouse are questioning why the District's medical examiner has not released the remains after months of investigation, saying they want to give the children a proper funeral and burial.

Attorneys for the relatives sent letters to D.C. officials this week asking that the bodies be released. But officials said yesterday that questions have arisen about who can legally claim the bodies, stalling action. The children's mother, Banita Jacks, has been jailed and is charged with killing them. Authorities have said they think the girls had been dead since summer.

Officials said the girls -- Brittany Jacks, 16, Tatianna Jacks, 11, N'Kiah Fogle, 6, and Aja Fogle, 5 -- have different sets of relatives, complicating matters. Some relatives have sued the city or sent notice of plans to do so, contending the District missed numerous signs that the girls were in danger.

Kim Brooks-Rodney, an attorney for Norman C. Penn Jr., Brittany's father, wrote one of the letters to the medical examiner's office. "This is way too long for the city to have the bodies and not to be releasing them," she said yesterday.

The city has received no correspondence from Kevin J. Stoddard, Tatianna's father, officials said. Nathaniel Fogle Jr., the father of the youngest girls, died last year. His mother, Jessie Fogle, also sent a letter to the city this week through her attorney.

Peter L. Scherr, who represents Jessie Fogle, said she was "upset with the dearth of information" about the city's plans.

"Your office has failed to advise the family as to why your office has retained the girls' bodies for more than four months or when the family will be able to provide a proper and dignified funeral for the girls," Scherr wrote in the letter Wednesday.

Another letter came from the attorney for Mamie Jacks, the mother of Banita Jacks.

D.C. officials said yesterday that the issue is not so clear-cut.

Peter J. Nickles, the city's interim attorney general, said Brittany's body will be released to her father "shortly." He said the city is waiting to hear from Tatianna's father. As for N'Kiah and Aja, Nickles said the city has to determine which grandparent has legal rights -- Jessie Fogle or Mamie Jacks.

Scherr said that all sides of the family have agreed on the arrangements and that there is no dispute. The District, he said, "never spoke to us regarding this issue. The family has decided who will take the bodies and where and when the services will be held."

Brooks-Rodney said there was a "joint effort" among family members to have the children buried soon.

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