116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A college student’s account that he awoke to the sound of gunfire and struggled over a rifle with a masked intruder is a transparent lie, a prosecutor said Wednesday as Alexander Ken Jackson, 20, faced his first court appearance on charges he murdered his parents and sister in their northeast Cedar Rapids home.
“This was a horrendous murder,” Assistant Linn County Attorney Ryan Decker said in Linn County District Court. “This was more than just a murder — it was an execution of the defendant’s mother, father and sister. Furthermore, the defendant’s concocted story of a phantom burglar shows the defendant acted out of malice and calculated intent to get away with these murders.”
Investigators found no evidence of a forced entry into or burglary at the home at 4414 Oak Leaf Ct. NE, according to a criminal complaint, which hinted at a possible motive for the triple killings.
“The defendant denied shooting his family members but admitted his father had recently advised that he needed to find a job or move out of the residence,“ the criminal complaint stated.
Sixth Judicial Distract Judge Casey Jones agreed with Decker to set Jackson’s bail for the three first-degree murder charges at $3 million cash — $1 million for each of the slain family members: father Jan Perry Jackson, 61; mother Melissa Ferne Jackson, 68; and sister Sabrina Hana Jackson, 19.
The case marks the city’s first triple homicide in nearly 40 years, according to the Cedar Rapids Police Department.
According to the criminal complaint, Cedar Rapids police officers were called at 8:23 a.m. Tuesday to the home by Alexander Jackson, who told the 911 dispatcher he and his father had been shot by a male intruder.
When police arrived, they found Jan, Melissa and Sabrina Jackson fatally shot. The victims were each in different rooms of the house, the document states. Court records do not say how many times each had been shot.
Alexander Jackson told investigators he was asleep when the attack on his family began, the complaint says. The sound of gunfire woke him, he told police, saying he was shot in the foot while struggling with the intruder.
A 22-caliber Browning semi-automatic rifle police said they believe is the murder weapon was found in the home. Jackson said he and his father had left it on the fireplace after cleaning it the night before, the complaint states.
Public safety department spokesman Greg Buelow hasn’t released additional details about the firearm, citing the police department’s ongoing investigation. He said investigators believe the four Jackson family members were the only people living in the home.
Assistant Linn County Attorney Monica Slaughter, who will be prosecuting the case, told The Gazette that investigators presented the case Tuesday to the Linn County Attorney’s Office. Slaughter and Assistant County Attorney Jordan Schier went to the home Tuesday afternoon and walked through the crime scene with investigators before concluding that Jackson should be charged with the murders. After he was treated at the hospital for his foot wound, Jackson was arrested shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday and booked into the Linn County Jail.
Jackson has no criminal past, Slaughter confirmed. Records do not show any previous calls for police help at the Oak Leaf Court NE address.
Family moved from Oregon in 2011
On Tuesday, neighbors who spoke with The Gazette described the family as good neighbors and nice people.
Ashok Parikh, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, recalled that the family moved in about 10 years ago. Their house sits across a private road from Parikh’s home.
“I was just talking to Melissa maybe four or five days ago,” Parikh said. He was sitting outside watching crews clear the last of the tree debris left from the Aug. 10, 2020, derecho when Melissa Jackson walked over to say hello.
“I told her my daughter’s friend had just bought a house in Oregon — and they (the Jacksons) are originally from Oregon, so we were talking about that,” he recalled.
Records from the Cedar Rapids Assessor’s Office show the Jacksons bought the house in 2011.
In the 10 years they’ve been neighbors, Parikh said he had never seen or heard anything to indicate there were problems within the family.
Alexander and Sabrina were students at the University of Iowa in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, according the Associated Press, and both had attended Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids.
In 2017 as a high school sophomore, Alexander Jackson — an Eagle Scout — worked with Save CR Heritage and other volunteers to paint the historic Frankie House, which the organization had moved and was rehabilitating so that low-income families could move there.
During his initial appearance Wednesday Jackson — clad in a yellow jumpsuit — sat silently while Decker read the criminal complaint detailing the killings. Aside from stating his name at the start of the hearing and requesting a public defender at its conclusion, he did not speak.
The judge assigned the case to the Linn County Public Defender’s Office and scheduled a preliminary hearing for June 25.
Cedar Rapids Public Safety’s Buelow said a search of the police department’s archives dating to 1959 revealed only two recorded triple homicides, including Tuesday’s.
The previous triple homicide, Buelow said, occurred Nov. 15, 1982, when three family members — including two children — were stabbed to death. Two Cedar Rapids men — Bruce Farris, who was 23 at the time, and Michael Rohn, who was 18 — were charged in the deaths.
In addition to triple homicides, Cedar Rapids has seen three double homicides since 2014 — two in 2014 and one in 2018.
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