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The Killer and Mrs. Johnson

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

Talking about his mother seems to ignite a weird energy in Ind--much more so than any reference to his stepfather. "Kermode, he'd get bad when he started lecturing and stuff, but my mom just made me feel like nothing is ever going to get better," he says. "She just made me feel like"--his voice falters, stops--"she knew exactly what to say to rip your heart out. She was an expert at it. She would have made a great lawyer."

Self-defense, as the law defines it, didn't really fit what he was feeling, he says. It was as if he had to hit the delete button on his parents to ensure his own survival. "I knew my parents weren't stupid enough to kill me," he says. "But I was in a situation where I felt that if I did not do that, I was going to die--not by their hand, but by my own. I didn't feel I had any other option."

Before the murders, Ind dabbled in devil worship; behind bars, he's embraced his own brand of fundamentalist Christianity. The word PRIDE is tattooed on the knuckles of his left hand, an attempt to cover a previous inscription, LARUS. "It came to me in a dream," he explains. "I thought, wow, this would be cool nickname. Then I found out it was a demon's name, and I tried to carve it out."

He doesn't expect to see his mother in the afterlife. "I think she'll be on the other side of the gulf," he says somberly. "I hope she won't be; I hope the last thought in her head was, 'God save me.' That way she won't be going to hell. I hope she did repent. She had enough time before she died to realize what was going on. I forgive her in my own heart, for my own sake, but I don't know if it will do any good for her."

But repentance--or remorse--seems to be the very quality that's absent from Ind's version of the crimes. It's the missing ingredient that kept him off the stand, undermined his self-defense claim and may sink any hopes he might have of obtaining a commutation of his life sentence.

"The thing that always bothered me is that Jacob has never indicated that he was sorry for what he did," says his prosecutor, Bill Aspinwall. "I think he's sorry for getting caught. I wish I could have him psychoanalyzed to see what he is really like."

Asked about remorse, or lack of it, Ind shrugs. "After it happened, I felt remorseful," he says. "Not because they were dead, but because of the way that it happened. Outside of that, I never really had any second thoughts. I always saw it as the right thing to do. I'm better off."

In fact, Ind says he prefers life in prison to life with Pamela and Kermode Jordan; for someone in his position, the extreme regimentation and controlled environment are not unlike being sent off to a very strict military boarding school. "I mean, I'd like being on the streets more," he says, "but I like prison. I don't like putting up with the crap from the guards and all the petty rules that aren't written down, but at least I can think what I want, read what I want, feel what I want. I have freedom within myself."

Ind's inner freedom has suffered a few setbacks since his sentencing. He was sent to CSP because searches turned up potential weapons in his cell, including a seven-inch piece of rebar and a braided rope that Ind says he was using as a clothesline. The incidents remind Aspinwall of the Jacob Ind he remembers--a violent youth who threatened another kid with a pair of scissors a few days before he killed his parents; a wary conspirator who contacted a friend from jail shortly after his arrest and asked him to kill Gabrial Adams, his accomplice.

Ind says the scissors incident was just "me having too much fun with the gullibility of ignorant people" and that his threat against Adams was made because he'd heard a rumor that the ninja wannabe was out on bond and planning to harm his brother, Charles. In any case, Ind says, "I'm a different person than I was. That much is clear."

Johnson thinks so, too. Although she believes Ind should undergo intensive rehabilitative treatment before he's ever released, she also thinks he's made great strides from the time she first met him. She's not entirely comfortable with his interest in Christian Identity teachings, but she thinks he's "grown" in prison--even in solitary confinement.

"In a perverse way, CSP has been harder on me than it's been on him," she says. "Maybe in a less structured environment, he wouldn't do as well."

The killing of a parent by a child is a rare act in modern America--particularly when compared to the number of parents who kill their children. Yet parricide seems to strike a deep nerve in the public imagination. The kneejerk reaction is to suspect not abuse but ingratitude, as in the old joke about the spoiled brat who shoots his parents and then begs for mercy because he's an orphan.

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