Her Dad Was No Father of the Year
(“Bagging a Killer,” Forensic Files)
This week, it’s back to Forensic Files with an episode about how police used a low-concept ploy and a high-tech device to expose a murderer.
Investigators compelled Brad Jackson, who killed his 9-year-old daughter, to dance a two-step familiar to Forensic Files watchers:
1) “Officer, I have no idea what happened to (fill in name).”
2) “Your Honor, I know what happened and it’s not my fault because (fill in improbable excuse).”
Police tactics that force suspects to change their stories add some wry moments to otherwise grim tales like this one.
Taken? Jackson, 34, ended up sentenced to 56 years rather than life without parole. So, for this week, I dug around a little for an epilogue for him and some of the other parties on “Bagging a Killer,” the Forensic Files episode about the case.
But first a recap of the episode, along with additional information drawn from internet research.
On October 18, 1999, Brad Jackson dialed 911 and, in an anguished voice, said he couldn’t find his daughter.
She’d been playing outside with her dog and had disappeared, with only her backpack left behind, he said.
Troubled mom. Folks from the Jacksons’ friendly neighborhood in Spokane Valley, Washington, sprang into action by searching for the flame-haired little girl and holding vigils.
Not everyone was buying Brad Jackson’s heartsick single dad routine, though. Valiree’s uncle John Stone recalled how his sister, Roseann Pleasant, had feared Jackson.
Pleasant had vanished two years after giving birth to Valiree, her daughter with Jackson. She reportedly struggled with drug problems, which Jackson blamed for her disappearance. But Stone wasn’t so sure.
Car stash. Investigators also had some suspicions about Jackson. He claimed that some blood stains on Valiree’s pillow came from a nosebleed she’d had the night before he reported her missing. But police hadn’t found any bloody tissues, wash cloths, cotton balls, etc., in the house.
After searching Jackson’s car and Ford pickup truck, investigators secretly outfitted each vehicle with a GPS transmitter, hot new gadgetry back in the day — a “high-tech version of a bloodhound,” as a New York Times story about the case described it. (Prosecutor Jack Driscoll later said “GPS” stands for “God Praise Satellites.”)
Then, as Detective David Madsen explained during his interview on Forensic Files, he warned Jackson that if Valiree lay in a shallow grave somewhere, her body would be easy to find.
Jackson fell for it.
The GPS tracked his movements as he removed his daughter’s body from its original grave, then drove to another area to bury it more deeply.
Cadaver dogs found Valiree’s body buried face down on the grounds of the second of those locations, a logging region near the town of Springdale.
Shaky defense. Investigators believe Jackson suffocated Valiree in her bed, thus the blood on her pillow, then wrapped her head in a plastic bag — similar to ones found in the home that Jackson shared with his parents and Valiree — and hastily buried her. Afterward, he returned home, called 911, and started play-acting.
In the subsequent trial, Jackson’s “not my fault” contention was that he had found Valiree dead in her bed due to a Paxil overdose (more about that in a second), panicked out of fear that people wouldn’t believe him, and then buried her.
The jury didn’t buy it.
As for a motive, apparently Valiree didn’t get along with her father’s onetime girlfriend, Dannette Schroeder. Jackson allegedly felt that, with his daughter out of the way, he could rekindle things with Schroeder.
Few friends. I’m not sure how Forensic Files narrator Peter Thomas managed to read this part without throttling the living parties involved: Taking Valiree to a psychiatrist and getting her a prescription for the psychotropic drug was Schroeder’s idea. Schroeder thought it would help make the little girl easier to contend with.
Apparently, however, Schroeder had nothing to do with the murder plot. She testified for the prosecution at Jackson’s trial.
“He’s not the B.J. that I fell in love with two years ago,” Schroeder testified. “I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there.”
Some of Jackson’s own blood relatives spoke out against him in court.
“This is hard for me to say — I honestly believe Brad deserves what he took from Valiree, and that’s a life sentence,” said his brother, Dick Jackson, as reported by the AP.
Memorial. Neighbors who fell victim to Jackson’s false alarm that an anonymous child abductor was loose in their community weren’t exactly unhappy to see him locked up either.
The Forensic Files episode closed with a view of the tree that kids from McDonald Elementary, where Valiree attended school, planted as a memorial to her. They chose a plumb tree with red leaves that reminded friends of her hair.
So where are the parties today? There’s no recent information available online about Dannette Schroeder, but the Web did turn up some intelligence on others related to the case:
• Sadly, Roseann Pleasant never turned up. Her brother said he suspected Jackson killed her and buried her in a building foundation during his stint working for Haskins Steel Co. The Charley Project, an organization that profiles missing persons, maintains a page devoted to Pleasant. (Note: Some sources spell her first name “Roseanne.”)
• John Stone, Valiree’s uncle, was the most sympathetic character appearing on the Forensic Files episode. Many online commenters expressed anger that Brad Jackson didn’t simply give custody of Valiree to Stone if he wanted her out of the way. Stone launched the Valiree Jackson Charitable Foundation which, as of 2004, was mired in some legal woes.
• As recently as 2003, Brad Jackson was attempting to get himself a new trial in a different venue. Lawyers for Jackson, who’s now 50 years old, have taken issue with the legality of the police’s GPS use. On Sept 11, 2003, the state of Washington Supreme Court denied Jackson’s motion for a new trial and reaffirmed his conviction. I had no luck finding Jackson via Washington’s inmate lookup service, although one source said he was being held out of state. On the bright side, there weren’t any stories indicating he’d won release. It’s a safe bet that this child killer still lives behind razor wire, where he can’t harm innocent people again.
That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. — RR