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Ex-Neighbor of Starved Boys Comes Forward

November 3, 2003

COLLINGSWOOD, N.J. (AP) _ A former neighbor of the couple accused of starving four adopted sons said he notified police eight years ago when one of the boys came to his home begging for food.

The child, now 19, is the same one found rooting through trash three weeks ago by another neighbor. That call to police resulted in the arrests of Raymond and Vanessa Jackson.

The former neighbor, who spoke to The Sunday Star-Ledger of Newark on the condition of anonymity, lives in a Pennsauken neighborhood where the Jacksons lived with their biological and foster children until the mid-1990s.

The incident, confirmed by the Jacksons’ eldest daughter, occurred four years after the Jacksons became foster parents and a year before they adopted the child.

The man said Bruce Jackson looked small and thin, about 6 or 7 years old, when he came to the door in 1995. The man said his wife gave the child some sandwiches and treats before calling police.

Pennsauken police could not say whether they had a record of the incident. A spokesman for Camden County Prosecutor Vincent Sarubbi said investigators were unaware of the incident.

A similar incident was referred to in statements the Jacksons made Friday through their minister, Harry Thomas of Come Alive New Testament Church in nearby Medford. The couple is charged with aggravated assault and endangerment.

Raymond Jackson said the boy once ran away from the house when the family lived in Pennsauken, and that the boy falsely told police his family had left him and gone to Florida.

Renee Jackson, 29, one of the couple’s biological children, said the incident supports the family’s assertion that Bruce Jackson had an eating disorder and would gorge himself.

``He would eat anything that was edible. A whole container of peanut butter, a whole loaf of bread. He would gorge himself. I still don’t understand it. We think it’s all psychological,″ said the daughter, who lives in Nashville, Tenn.

Authorities removed the adopted sons from the Jackson home Oct. 10. Investigators said the children, ranging in age from 9 to 19, weighed less than 50 pounds each, and had decayed teeth and head lice. They said the children were sometimes so hungry they chewed on windowsills and walls.

The Jacksons have claimed the children had eating disorders and were born to alcoholics and drug users, leaving them underdeveloped.

Two adopted daughters and a foster daughter also were found in the home but showed no signs of neglect.

The Jacksons each posted $100,000 bail and were released from jail by Sunday morning, said Capt. Richard Minardi of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office. No new hearings have been scheduled.

Under terms of the bail, the couple is not allowed to have any contact with their four adopted sons, Minardi said.

The discovery of the children has led state officials to seek the dismissal of nine workers from the Division of Youth and Family Services, the agency that signed off on the boys’ adoptions.

Gov. James E. McGreevey also has ordered the state’s newly appointed child advocate to investigate.

Meanwhile, Thomas, the Jacksons’ minister, said supporters of the couple have started a defense fund to help cover their legal and living expenses.


On the Net:

Jackson supporters: http://www.savethejacksons.org

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