The Killer and Mrs. Johnson

A gruesome crime. A bizarre defense. Can a crusading author reopen her best friend's case?

"One day he started telling me how hard it was to cry," Johnson recalls, "and how his parents used to punish him. He told me about Kermode throwing him up against a wall and how his parents made fun of him. I mentioned this to the defense investigator, and she was really surprised. She said, 'But Jacob won't talk to anyone about the abuse.'"

A few days later, Johnson was contacted by Shaun Kaufman, Ind's court-appointed attorney, who asked her to join the defense team as an investigator. At first she was supposed to question Jacob about his memories of physical and emotional abuse, while leaving questions about alleged sexual abuse to the experts; but since no "experts" conducted psychological evaluations of Ind until shortly before trial, she eventually probed that area as well. Johnson remains furious that the defense never arranged for any intensive therapy for Ind.

"People can say what they want about me," she says now. "I never, ever said I was qualified to do this. Legally and professionally, I was probably the worst person Jacob could have, because I knew nothing. But emotionally, I was good for Jacob; he needed someone to listen to him and be a friend. That I could do."

But extracting a coherent life story from Ind proved more difficult than she expected. He claimed to remember very little of his childhood; entire years were blank, while other, more recent memories proved to be fragmentary at best. It took months of visits, as well as interviews with relatives and family friends and rummaging through old letters and personal effects at the Jordan home, before Johnson began to get a picture of what had happened.

Pamela Jean Ind's first marriage was already on the rocks by the time Jacob, her second child, was born. Pam was an ambitious, somewhat promiscuous engineer at Pacific Bell in California, while Jacob's father, Chuck Ind, was a layabout whose big dream was to be a professional golfer. Pam divorced him before Jacob was a year old. Three years later, in 1981, in a bar in downtown San Jose, she met the smooth-talking older man who would become the boys' stepfather.

Pam was thirty years old and ostensibly engaged to someone else. Kermode Howard Jordan was 46 and ostensibly rich. In reality, Jordan was a bullshit artist, an alcoholic fabulist with a string of four failed marriages--two of them, at least, quite violent. He had a spotty employment record, a somewhat shady history as a campus anti-war protester and revolutionary philosopher manque, and an insufferable, preening sense of self-importance. Johnson believes he was also a pederast whose real reason for marrying Pam was the allure of her two children, especially four-year-old Jacob.

But Kermode's supposed deviance didn't emerge in Johnson's initial conversations with Jacob Ind--not for months. Ind readily volunteered that both Pam and Kermode had punched and slapped him and occasionally beaten him with a belt; that he'd frequently been told that he was worthless, a "faggot" and a "motherfucker"; that every aspect of his daily routine--from his meals to his hygiene to his extensive chores to whether he was allowed to decorate his room--was strictly controlled by his control-freak parents.

After the Jordans moved to Woodland Park in 1987--Kermode, an engineer with Digital Equipment, had been transferred to the Colorado Springs office--things got worse, he said; the immaculate mountain home reflected the family's isolation as well as Pam's mania for cleanliness. And after his brother Charles moved out, the situation became intolerable. But if there was any sexual abuse in the equation, Ind seemed to have a hard time recalling it.

"He would give me hints," Johnson says. "He'd say, 'If it did happen, it might have happened this way.' Everyone was telling me that they knew this kid was sexually abused, but I didn't even know what the signs were."

As it turned out, it was Charles, not Jacob, who brought allegations of sexual abuse to the attention of the defense. When first questioned after the murders, he'd told the police about his parents' "put-downs" and "mental abuse" and occasional bursts of violence, but none of it sounded too extreme. Yet in the summer of 1993 he called Johnson and unburdened himself of a terrible story: In the early years of the marriage, he said, when Kermode was frequently out of work and at home alone with the boys, he used to give them long baths--during which he fondled them, masturbated against them and even sodomized them, lashing them to the toilet and threatening to "break their necks" if they told anyone.

Experts say it's not unusual for victims of childhood sexual abuse, especially adolescent males, to repress or deny memories of the events. But Charles's belated admission was greeted with considerable skepticism in some quarters.

"Charles never said anything until we brought it up," says former deputy district attorney Bill Aspinwall, the lead prosecutor on the case. "I've often thought it was our suggestion [of sexual abuse] to Charles that brought this into the case. I've done a lot of sexual-abuse-on-children cases, and this one just didn't seem to fit the way those cases come about. It was so bizarre--it's not something I would have believed myself."

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