Friday, July 17, 2009

The mother of a Southeast woman accused of killing her four daughters said Thursday that the family could have turned to her as their financial situation worsened, but her daughter never reached out to her.

Mamie Jacks took the stand on the second day of 35-year-old Banita Jacks’ murder trial in D.C. Superior Court. The decomposing bodies of Jacks’ four girls — ages 5 to 17 — were found by U.S. Marshals serving an eviction at her home in January 2008. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree premeditated murder.

Judge Frederick H. Weisberg is deciding the case, instead of a jury, after Banita Jacks waived her right to a jury trial.

As prosecutor Deborah Sines asked Mamie Jacks to identify her three youngest grandchildren in a photo, Banita Jacks began to cry, rubbing her eyes and keeping her head down. Judge Weisberg called for a short break before resuming with the mother’s testimony.

In a calm tone, Mamie Jacks said her daughter left school at age 17 after giving birth to her first daughter, Brittany, and lived at her Charles County, Md., home at the time.

“She took excellent care of Brittany,” Mamie Jacks said, adding that Banita Jacks took good care of her other daughters as well.

Mamie Jacks said it would have been “way out of character” for her daughter to do anything to harm her children.

However, she also said she had intermittent contact with her daughter and granddaughters in the last decade. At one point, Banita Jacks and the girls moved into her Maryland home for about a month. Mamie Jacks said she allowed Nathaniel Fogle, her daughter’s boyfriend and father of the two youngest girls, to visit the home, but not to live there.

Once she found him in her daughter’s bedroom: “I saw him in the bed and I told him he had two seconds to get out of my house,” she said.

Banita Jacks then left her mother’s home. According to Mamie Jacks’ account, Banita Jacks said that if her boyfriend couldn’t live there, neither would she. After that, she rarely kept in touch. Mamie Jacks said she last saw the girls about three years ago at her son’s house and they seemed happy and healthy. She said she had no knowledge of her daughter’s financial troubles, including how the family lived in a shelter and later their van.

When asked by Ms. Sines whether she would have helped them had Banita Jacks contacted her, Mamie Jacks stressed that her daughter could have relied on her for food, shelter and other resources.

“I would’ve been there,” Mamie Jacks said.

She also said she never called police. About two years ago, she said she called the Charles County social services agency to inquire about her granddaughters’ welfare.

The last phone call she received from her daughter was from jail, she said, after Banita Jacks was arrested last year.

Earlier Thursday, prosecutors called a deputy U.S. Marshal and a real estate broker who went to evict Banita Jacks in January 2008. They both described a strong odor coming from the home.

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