By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Only a hint of the horrible things that happened in the redbrick rowhouse on Sixth Street SE can be found in one of the second-floor bedrooms.
The door inside the tiny closet is a makeshift chalkboard. Black sketches in crayon or markers show the numbers 1 through 10 and the mathematical equation "2+2=4," with the 2s printed backward. There's a drawing of a cat, and of four chicken eggs, with one chicken breaking out of an egg.
Nearby, a scribbled phrase: "Yes I do love mom."
This is the house where Banita Jacks was found living with the decaying corpses of her four young daughters last year. Now, it is up for sale, languishing on the market despite a price reduction of more than 40 percent.
The three-bedroom, redbrick rowhouse with 1 1/2 bathrooms is up for bank auction March 15 for $90,900. It's one of the few remaining houses in the District being offered for less than $100,000, real estate agents say.
What's not revealed on any of the real estate information about the house at 4249 Sixth St. SE -- and what agents selling the house are not obligated to disclose -- is its history.
Police say Jacks, 35, killed her daughters during the summer of 2007 and lived with their bodies in the house for at least six months before they were discovered in January 2008, when U.S. marshals were doing a standard eviction.
The youngest daughter, Aja Fogle, 5, had been strangled and beaten, according to a 12-count indictment returned by a grand jury. N'Kiah Fogle, 6, and Tatiana Jacks, 11, were strangled, and Brittany Jacks, 15, whom her mother referred to as a "Jezebel," was stabbed, the indictment said. Jacks said the children died in their sleep.
Jacks is at St. Elizabeths Hospital, awaiting trial July 13 on charges including first-degree murder and child neglect. Jacks said she will plead not guilty.
Signs outside the house, whose sale was first reported by WTOP (103.5 FM), advertise the lender foreclosure.
Properties in which notorious crimes have occurred are considered "stigmatized." Although real estate agents are required to divulge material defects that could affect a property's value, crimes such as murder are considered psychological defects that don't have to be divulged.
District real estate experts say laws such as the Fair Housing Act forbid real estate agents from disclosing information about crime in a neighborhood or a home. Real estate lawyer Brian Kass said it's up to the buyer to ask the agent whether "anything unusual" has occurred in the house. Otherwise, the agent needn't divulge.
"It's illegal to reveal that type of information," said Brookland-based Long & Foster agent Andi Fleming. "In the eyes of the bank, it doesn't affect the value of the home."
The home's asking price has been sliding faster than the Dow.
It is assessed at $220,610 according to 2009 District tax records.
In September, it was listed at $163,000. In October, the bank lowered the price to $152,200. Nine days later, the price was lowered to $139,900. In December, the price was lowered to $100,000. On Feb. 6, the price was lowered to $90,900.
The two-story house needs a little work. Despite the hardwood floors in the living room, gray carpeting in the bedrooms and tiled kitchen floor, there are holes in the dining room ceiling.
Jacks lived reclusively with her daughters' bodies, police say. She removed her children from school and later told officials she was home-schooling them. The closet seemed to be part of a classroom. Beside the drawing of a cat is scribbled "N'Kiah," the name of the second-youngest girl. The alphabet on the closet's back wall is written in a child's hand.
At the time of Jacks's arrest, marshals found religious writings on the walls, authorities said. None are visible on the freshly painted walls. But on one bedroom wall, some traces of the writings can be seen, ghost-like, through the white paint. Near the window, seven fingernail-sized heart decals are glued to the wall.
On the ground near the back porch yesterday was a red barrette, the kind that little girls wear.