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Banita Jacks found guilty of murdering daughters

Wednesday - 7/29/2009, 3:56pm  ET

(Charles County Police File Photo)
Banita Jacks faces life in prison when she is sentenced in October. (AP File Photo)
Mark Segraves, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A D.C. woman has been found guilty of killing her four young daughters and keeping their decomposing bodies in her home.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg found 34-year-old Banita Jacks guilty on 11 of 12 counts, including four counts of felony murder, four counts of cruelty to children, three counts of first-degree premeditated murder.

Judge Weisberg decided on the case on Wednesday, a month after Jacks waived her right to a jury trial.

Judge Weisberg said he could not find Jacks guilty on the fourth count of first-degree premeditated murder because he could not rule out that Jack's oldest daughter - 17-year-old Brittany - committed suicide.

Jacks sat without emotion for the 90 minutes it took Judge Weisberg to read his verdict. Dressed in a dark blue prison jumpsuit, Jacks leaned her head to one side and looked at the judge.

After the verdict, Judge Weisberg asked the attorneys to determine a date for sentencing. The attorneys agreed on Oct. 16, but at that point, Jacks began rolling her eyes and whispering to her attorney Peter Krauthamer.

Krauthamer could be seen shaking his head as they spoke. Judge Weisberg asked if there was a problem, and Krauthamer said he would like a date in November.

Weisberg asked the prosecutors if they had any objection and then said, "I might have an objection. I'm going to need a reason for this."

Deborah Sines, a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's Office objected to the delay, saying "family members are waiting for closure."

Jacks and Krauthamer conferred a few more moments until Jacks sat back in her chair and threw up her arms in disgust.

Krauthamer told the judge Oct. 16 would be fine.

"We are pleased with the verdict and we think the people of the District of Columbia are also pleased," U.S. Attorney Michelle Jackson said

Krauthamer said he plans to appeal the ruling and use "every appellate avenue" possible, which could include asking the court to find Jacks incompetent.

"I feel bad for Ms. Jacks. She's looking at life in prison. The end result was not good for her," Krauthamer said.

U.S. Marshals discovered the decomposing bodies of her daughters - 17-year-old Brittany Jacks, 11-year-old Tatianna Jacks, 6-year-old N'Kiah Fogle and 5-year-old Aja Fogle - in two upstairs bedrooms while serving an eviction notice on Jan. 9, 2008.

The bodies of the three youngest girls - who were each wearing white T-shirts - were found lying side-by-side, in order of their age. The girls each had ligature marks around their necks as though they had been strangled. Two of the girls had fibers on their necks; one of them had a blunt force trauma to the back of her head.

The room where Brittany was found was sealed shut at the base of the door with T-shirts and duct tape.

During the trial, forensic experts testified that the girls died sometime between April and August of 2007, but it was impossible to know exactly when.

Brittany - Jacks' oldest daughter - likely died before the three younger girls, a forensic expert testified. Another forensic expert said he was "absolutely certain" Brittany was stabbed.

An administrator with the D.C. Department of Human Services testified Jacks received food stamps and $674 a month for herself, her daughters and her terminally-ill fiance Nathaniel Fogle. Jacks continued to receive benefits until October of 2007 - months after Fogle died of cancer and after her daughters had been killed.

During the trial, a friend of Fogle testified the couple let N'Kiah and Aja smoke marijuana and saw them laughing at the children.

In closing arguments, Jackson said Jacks planned the deaths of her children and tortured them prior to killing them. She also compared Jacks' home to Abu Ghraib and said the girls lived "in their own prison of torture."

While in police custody, Jacks often referred to Brittany as "Jezebel" and told police the girls were possessed by demons and that they died in their sleep.

When authorities first arrived at the two-story rowhouse on 6th Street, there was no furniture in the home. The electricity had been turned off and cigarette butts and empty juice bottles littered the floor.

Neighbors told police they saw Jacks removing furniture in May of 2007 because Jacks said it was covered in ants. Jacks' immediate neighbors said she would often come to their back doors and ask for food, water and cigarettes.

Several neighbors said they stopped hearing the sounds of the girls playing in the home around July in 2007 and noticed a foul odor -which they thought was due to dead rats - by August.

Around that time, Jacks began to lose weight and told neighbors she had cancer and that her daughters had gone to South Carolina.

The case sparked an internal review of D.C.'s Child and Family Services Agency. Six D.C. employees were also fired for failing to properly address alarming complaints about Jacks' care for her daughters.

(Copyright 2009 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)