The Killer and Mrs. Johnson
On the morning of December 17, 1992, a rangy freshman named Jacob Ind was pulled out of his first-hour class at Woodland Park High School by counselor David Greathouse. Concerned about Ind's emotional stability, Greathouse had arranged for the fifteen-year-old to meet with a mental-health specialist from a Colorado Springs hospital.
Ind agreed to meet with "the shrink," as he called her. The woman asked him how things were going at home. Everything was going okay, he told her. No problem.
Actually, everything was not okay. As with so many aspects of the Ind case, the attempt to evaluate Jacob's mental health was too little, too late. Only hours earlier, he and another teenager had slaughtered Pamela and Kermode Jordan, Ind's mother and stepfather, in the master bedroom of the family's 4,000-square-foot mountain home. Their bodies were found later that day, after Ind fessed up to the crime to his school principal. Both he and his accomplice were promptly arrested.
The night of the murders, Ind had taken a batch of cold pills to help him sleep, having entrusted the task of snuffing his parents to seventeen-year-old Gabrial Adams. A self-styled martial arts expert, Adams would later tell police that Ind had promised to pay him $2,000. But the pint-sized assassin muffed the job.
Ninja-like, Adams crept into the Jordan home after midnight. He shot a sleeping Kermode Jordan twice in the head with a .22 pistol. Jordan woke up. So did his wife. Adams shot Pamela twice and Kermode two more times, touching off a desperate struggle for the now-empty gun.
Ind awoke to screams. He ran to the master bedroom and came upon the Jordans wrestling with Adams over a hunting knife. Ind sprayed his parents with bear Mace, then retreated to the bathroom, where Kermode kept his .357 Magnum revolver. Ind grabbed the gun. He shot his mother and stepfather once each in the head, putting an end to the carnage.
"I didn't want to be involved," Ind scolded Adams. "You fucked up."
After Adams left, Ind showered and put on some music. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Exodus, the Doors--music for parricides. ("Father?" "Yes, son." "I want to kill you...Mother, I want to--eeaaaarrrgghh!") He took the bus to school, met with the shrink, and then told friends about the slayings, which he'd been contemplating and talking about for weeks. He was going to kill himself now, he said.
Instead, he was called into the principal's office, then arrested.
The murders shocked Woodland Park, an upscale bedroom community eighteen miles west of Colorado Springs. Both Ind and Adams were charged as adults. At Ind's 1994 trial, his attorneys attempted to present evidence of self-defense, claiming that their client had been beaten and verbally abused by both parents for years--and, as a child, sexually molested by Kermode Jordan.
A key witness was Ind's older brother, who'd moved out of the house shortly before the murders. Charles Ind provided a graphic account of how Kermode "would basically rape us" during long "bath sessions." But Jacob himself never testified, and the jury didn't buy the argument that he was in imminent danger of harm at the time he executed his parents. Like Adams, Jacob Ind was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life in prison--making him the youngest person in the Colorado Department of Corrections doing life without parole.
At his sentencing, Ind spoke out for the first time, complaining that the justice system wasn't designed to get at the truth. "The system sucks big, fat, sweaty toe," he said.
Then he vanished into prison, to reappear occasionally by satellite on "Kids Who Kill" talk shows hosted by the likes of Montel Williams. As a result of various infractions of prison rules, since 1995 he's been in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement at the state supermax, the Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP). But the case continues to haunt several of Ind's relatives and former neighbors, who believe there is much more to the story than what the jurors were allowed to hear. And for Mary Ellen Johnson, a 48-year-old author who claims to know Jacob Ind better than anyone alive, reopening the case has become an obsession.
"Jacob may never get out of prison, but people need to know what happened," Johnson says. "If this kid can wind up with this kind of defense and this kind of sentence, then we have a problem with our justice system."
A Woodland Park resident and writer of historical novels, Johnson befriended Ind a few months after his arrest. Despite her lack of experience, she was soon hired by Ind's defense team as an investigator, assigned to draw out Jacob's scattered memories of abuse. By the time of the trial, she had become a fierce behind-the-scenes advocate for Ind--and the rest of the defense team had all but stopped talking to her.
Last year Johnson self-published a book about the case, The Murder of Jacob. The book is a stinging attack on school officials and the Teller County Department of Social Services for what Johnson regards as an inadequate response to reports of trouble in the Jordan home before the murders; it also blasts both the prosecution and the defense for not investigating the claims of abuse thoroughly enough. In fact, Johnson regards her own involvement in the case, for which she was never paid, as a fair indication of just how "haphazard" Ind's court-appointed defense really was.
"Never having been involved in a criminal investigation, I didn't know how these things worked," she says. "I just did what they told me: talk to Jacob about the emotional and physical abuse. Then they wanted me to talk to him about sexual abuse--and I have a high-school diploma. I wasn't qualified to do any of this."
Johnson says that half the profits from her book, which has almost sold out a modest first printing of 3,000 copies, are being placed in a Justice for Jacob fund. But the book is only one component of her crusade. She visits Ind twice a month at CSP and has worked closely with him to retain Dennis Sladek, a Colorado Springs lawyer who is seeking a hearing asking for a new trial, based on "new evidence" stemming from Johnson's own research into the case.
Two weeks ago Sladek filed a civil lawsuit on Ind's behalf, suing nine employees of the Woodland Park School District--teachers, counselors and administrators who Ind contends knew something about the abuse he suffered from his parents but failed to report it to the proper authorities. Ind claims to have been "damaged" as a result of their negligence, arguing that a vigorous child-abuse investigation could have prevented the murders--and spared him a life sentence.
School-district officials did not respond to Westword's requests for comment on the unusual lawsuit, but it's doubtful that the action has won Mary Ellen Johnson any new friends in Woodland Park. That doesn't seem to bother her, though. Her efforts have already drawn fire from various individuals connected with the case, who have questioned her objectivity, her motives and her ability to sort out fact from fiction.
"I have no warm feelings toward Mary Ellen Johnson," says Shaun Kaufman, the lead defense attorney in the Ind trial and the target of some of the harshest criticism in Johnson's book. Kaufman contends that Johnson "lost perspective" on the case and that her charges of an inadequate defense are "a crock of shit." "We gave the jury what we could have the jury hear without crossing the line of fabrication," he says.
Kaufman isn't the author's only detractor. "On talk shows, [the criticism] has pretty much run the gamut," Johnson says, "from 'You're making a million dollars' to 'You're in a midlife crisis, you're nuts, and you're having a sexual relationship with this kid.' But I know what my motivations are, and my family and friends have stuck by me."
Still, Johnson admits, there are days when she wishes she'd never heard of Jacob Ind.
"This is the first crazy thing I've done in my life," she says. "I want it to end so badly, I can't tell you. As much as I love Jacob, and as much as I'd never back out of this thing, I wish it was over. But I wish it would have a happy ending."
Mary Ellen Johnson's sunny home sits at the end of a cul-de-sac in a hilltop subdivision west of Woodland Park. The living room is decorated with family pictures--Johnson and her husband, Mark, a business manager for the electrical workers' union in Colorado Springs, two sons and a daughter. Reproductions of medieval artwork line the walls; castles adorn floor tiles. The Doors' greatest hits play softly on the stereo. Upstairs is a poster of that mystical troubador, Jim Morrison, and a blown-up reproduction of the cover of The Lion and the Leopard, Johnson's 1985 novel of Plantagenet England--which, despite its bodice-ripper artwork, Johnson insists is not a romance.
"All I ever wanted to be was a writer," Johnson says. "Now I'm not sure I care anymore. I may want to write a book about the Department of Corrections, but I don't have the proper mindset now. I'm just angry."
As Johnson tells it, Jacob Ind introduced her to a world far more strange and deadly than fourteenth-century England. Her daughter had been a classmate of Ind's; after the murders hit the newspapers, she decided to write to him in jail. She wasn't aiming to write a book at that point, she says, but to offer what consolation she could.
"I had to weigh it carefully," she says. "Did I really want to get involved? I had just come out of a deep depression over my dad's death from colon cancer, a situation where I should have questioned the doctors more closely, and I guess I was looking for something. I knew I couldn't just come into Jacob's life and leave, but I also told myself that if I ever got involved in something again, I would not leave it up to the professionals."
She shakes her head ruefully. "It's been a massive undertaking," she says. "I had no idea. I was so naive."
She wrote the letter, and Ind wrote back. Soon he invited her to visit him. Johnson, who'd never known anyone in trouble with the law before, began to make regular trips to the county jail. At first they talked mostly about music, but as the weeks rolled by, Ind began to recount incidents he hadn't told even his own lawyers, whom he saw far less frequently than he did Johnson.
"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."
At first Jacob was reluctant to confirm Charles's story. He denied even taking bubble baths until Johnson confronted him with snapshots, probably taken by Kermode, of the boy frolicking in the tub. Although he did eventually provide a graphic account of one rape for Johnson's book, he still insisted the attacks weren't as frequent as Charles claimed and that he was never tied down.
"If he was trying to con someone, you'd think he'd at least corroborate his brother's story," Johnson says. "But he'd say things like, 'If he just masturbated, it wasn't sexual abuse.' 'If he did penetrate me, it was only a few times.'"
Still, Jacob had his own outrageous story to contribute. As the months wore on, he began to tell Johnson about being molested and forced to perform oral sex--by his own mother. From the time he was six until he was twelve, he said, once in a great while, a dreamy-eyed Pam would take him into her bed and show him how to please her. Johnson figured that the youth was more willing to talk about such incidents because they seemed somehow less shameful--more consensual, perhaps, more "manly"--than being sodomized by his stepfather.
Curiously, Ind made no such admissions to the mental-health professionals hired to evaluate him for trial. The brothers' collective account--both parents freely exploiting the children, each unaware or tacitly approving of the other's perversion, the boys not telling anyone about such painful, traumatic encounters until months after the slayings--was almost too grotesque to be credible. Yet other sources seemed to substantiate at least pieces of the story.
Pam's mother recalled how Kermode would take young Jacob on his lap, stroke him "all over" and appear to become so sexually stimulated that he had to excuse himself. A friend of Pam's said she used to pay unusual attention to her children's genitalia, even when they were infants, seeming to fondle them while "cleaning" them. The same friend's son broke silence over an incident that had occurred years before--when, he said, Pam had groped him in a bathroom.
Johnson dutifully reported what she found to defense attorney Shaun Kaufman, but only a portion of what she uncovered was actually presented at trial. She claims that Kaufman almost never returned her phone calls, failed to follow up on several promising leads and potential witnesses, and spent only a few hours with Jacob in the seventeen months he sat in the county jail awaiting trial. In her view, his co-counsel, Tom Kennedy, was more diligent, but Kennedy joined the defense only four months before trial.
Kaufman denies any lack of diligence. "She probably doesn't know why a lot of professionals do what they do, but my time records show that somewhere between seven hundred and a thousand hours went into that case," he says. "I wasn't playing pinball, boss."
Kaufman says that defense investigators scoured medical and school records and flew to California looking for corroboration of the abuse and that he presented the most credible evidence he could find. He didn't spend much time with his client because that was Johnson's job, he adds--and Ind, with his hazy memories and wariness of most adults, wasn't "an integral part" of the defense strategy, anyway. Instead, Kaufman relied on expert witnesses, including a psychologist who'd testified in defense of the infamous Menendez brothers, to try to explain Ind's behavior.
"When that verdict came down, a good part of me died inside," he says now. "It's still a compelling case for me, and really upsetting. I believed Jacob. I just couldn't prove to the jury he was abused enough to have been in immediate apprehension of physical danger when he executed his parents in their sleep."
Friction between Ind's confidante and his lawyer flared on other fronts, too. Subpoenaed as a potential witness herself, Johnson was unable to attend any of the trial, but Kaufman says she made inappropriate remarks to witnesses outside the courtroom. Johnson admits telling one prosecution witness he was a "lying little weasel," but she says she didn't realize that that could be construed as attempted intimidation of a witness.
Yet there is one aspect of the case that Johnson and Kaufman agree about. Both say the police and the district attorney's office did little to check out the Ind brothers' claims of abuse. "They didn't know enough about it to fill a coffee cup," Kaufman says. "They only did enough to try to undo a claim of abuse, to protect their case. That's all."
Prosecutor Aspinwall says he's satisfied with the effort the police made, but Johnson has plenty to say about inadequate investigations in The Murder of Jacob. From its odd title--a reference to the "soul murder" of the youth by his abusive parents--to its first line ("Jacob Ind is my friend") to its last (Johnson counts the days "until Jacob and I are together again"), the book is squarely in the killer's corner. Ind reviewed the manuscript for accuracy ("He was extremely brutal on himself and his motives," Johnson notes) and even wrote a foreword.
"Sure, my childhood sucked," Ind wrote. "Being raped and forced to perform oral sex on my mom and Kermode sucked. Being beaten sucked. But what does wallowing in grief and self-pity accomplish?...I am not a victim."
Apparently, the jury felt the same way. Why, then, did it take that jury five days to reach a verdict?
Kaufman sees the lengthy deliberations as a victory of sorts. "They were out for five days on a double homicide in which two people were ambushed and then executed," he notes. "Somebody must have done something right to get the jury thinking about self-defense for five days.
"I must say, in my own defense, that there was something there. That ought to be said in Jacob's defense, too."
Patty Scott is watching television--We the Jury, a Lauren Hutton movie--when the phone rings. She waits for the verdict before answering a question about how she reached her own verdict nearly four years ago as a member of the jury that found Jacob Ind guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.
"Second degree was an option, but if you read the rules, it didn't apply," she says. "Of course, we didn't know much. People on juries are dummied up--not dumb, but they don't know what they should to make that kind of decision."
Scott is one of three jurors who've told Johnson and other Ind supporters that, if they'd known more about the situation in the Jordan home, their verdict might have been quite different. She says she tried to read The Murder of Jacob to find out what the jury didn't know, but didn't make it past the first few chapters.
"It's one of those things I tried to put behind me and haven't been able to," she says. "It's bothered me ever since it happened. It didn't happen the way it should have. I don't think we were given the right tools."
The information the jury did have to work with, Scott says, was ambiguous at best. Three expert witnesses testified that abused children often have an exaggerated sense of helplessness and despair and that they don't report the abuse or flee their homes because they feel there is no escape. But Scott doesn't "put a lot of stock in psychiatrists."
Classmates testified that Jacob did talk about being beaten, but few saw any bruises on him. He even talked about wanting to kill his parents and approached several friends about helping him, but they all said they thought he was kidding. Lots of kids talked that way.
The jury heard Charles describe Kermode Jordan's bathroom assaults, but something about the story "didn't ring true," Scott says. Charles also testified that he and his brother had told counselor David Greathouse about Kermode's violent behavior a week before the slayings, but Greathouse insisted that the brothers had talked only about verbal and emotional abuse--nothing physical.
There were other topics the jury knew very little about--Pamela Jordan, for example. Jacob's godmother told them about how Pam used to beat the boy, but Judge Jane Looney didn't allow them to hear the testimony of the teen who claimed Pam had molested him, and the defense introduced no evidence of the mother's alleged sexual abuse of Jacob himself. The jury heard a tearful plea from Pam's mother to save her grandson, but they didn't hear from other relatives who were prepared to testify that the Ind brothers displayed an unusual knowledge of sex at an early age.
Nor did they hear much that was revealing from all the teachers and counselors who'd come into contact with the Ind children over the years. Johnson says she has evidence that some teachers knew more than they admitted at trial and that the Department of Social Services had more contact with the family than the one brief encounter--Charles's visit with a caseworker to discuss moving out of the house--that was presented in the case.
And, of course, they didn't hear from Jacob Ind. Kaufman says Ind would have made a lousy witness. "His demeanor at trial, due to the fact that he was an abuse victim, was flat," he says. "He wouldn't have been a fabulous advocate. He wouldn't have cried for his parents. He wouldn't have shown any remorse...Much like a doctor won't operate without a sterile operating room, a good criminal defense lawyer won't put his client on the stand because of the danger of infection."
Yet Scott believes more testimony about what the parents did or didn't do and what the kids did or didn't do to try to get help could have steered the deliberations in a different direction. "I do think it would have made a difference," Scott says. "From what we heard, he didn't seek help, he didn't talk to anybody about this. That's the way it appeared to us. It's such a shame that Jacob couldn't take the stand."
When she joined in a verdict of first-degree murder, Scott didn't know that under Colorado law, first-degree means a life sentence without possibility of parole; juries aren't supposed to consider sentencing when they decide on a case. Not terribly happy with the mandatory life term herself, Judge Looney assured the jury that she would try to seek placement for Ind in some sort of "therapeutic community" within the Department of Corrections.
"I don't know whose fault it is," Scott says, "but I was under the impression they were going to try to get him into a youth camp. When I found out he was in Canon City, that just broke my heart."
Jacob Ind had it all mapped out in his mind, the magical way in which Kermode and Pamela Jordan would be removed from his life. It would be neat. Clean. Painless.
"It was supposed to be something I could sleep through," he recalls, sitting behind glass in a visitors' room at the Colorado State Penitentiary. "Bink! They're gone--just like hitting the delete button on a computer or something, like taking an eraser and rubbing them out."
He makes small rubbing motions on the counter in front of him. "But it was nothing like that," he says.
Ind is twenty years old now. He gets up at five in the morning and spends an average of 23 hours a day in his eight-by-ten-foot cell--eating, watching television, writing letters, thinking. He works out with a chin-up bar in a closet-sized recreation pen, and he greets visitors in a glass cage, speaking with a Texas yahoo accent he picked up from other prisoners several years ago.
He takes college Bible classes through the mail, but he says prison officials are trying to put a stop to it, just as they have intercepted the religious literature he'd been receiving from the Christian Identity movement (the study of white-supremacist theology is considered to be "gang-related activity"). He's on a waiting list for a required anger-management class, but since he's a lifer, he's not a priority. The other classes available to him in CSP, stuff like business management, "are nothing I can use," he says.
Ind boasts that a prison psychologist told him he was "perfectly normal." In fact, he's never had any psychiatric treatment since the night he killed his parents. Asked if he thinks he needs it, he returns a blank stare.
"I don't know," he says. "I never think about the past."
The past is a murky place for Ind. He claims to remember more now than he did right after the murders, but there are still many aspects of his life that he's vague about. "He's still a child," says Diana Sladek, a psychotherapist and trial consultant--and wife of Ind's new attorney--who's visited him frequently in the past few months. "He hasn't matured past fifteen, and in some ways he's younger than that. He still has a lot of confusion and a lot of fear."
But there is one assertion he's absolutely clear about: Lots of people, including several teachers, knew about the chaos in his home before the murders. Not about the sexual abuse, surely, but not just "put-downs," either. He and Charles told them about beatings. Fistfights. Mayhem. Stuff that teachers are obligated to report. And no one did anything, he says--hence the civil lawsuit Ind has filed against nine educators.
During his meeting with counselor David Greathouse a week before the slayings, he says, "I told him I wanted to harm my parents. He was so concerned about my household that he told a shrink from Penrose [Hospital] to talk to me. If he was that concerned, he should have called Social Services and told them to take a look."
Johnson says she was appalled to discover that when Ind "acted up" in class, he was often sent to peer counselors--other students who were supposed to report what kids told them to an adult supervisor. "Some of these kids have told me that they were counseling rape victims and doing other things they had no business doing," she says. "And for the last month or six weeks, the teachers all saw the deterioration in Jacob. He was asking several kids if they would help him kill his parents, and the teachers heard some of this stuff."
But Ind had difficulty asserting himself with teachers and counselors. "Adults," he says, "were God." That's why he let his lawyers handle his case the way they did, even though he didn't agree with it.
"I was Silly Putty," he says. "If they'd told me to plead guilty, I would have done it. I had no backbone when it came to adults."
At one point, he recalls, he called his lawyers from jail and insisted that he be allowed to testify. "They told me if I told the judge that I wanted to testify, they'd pack up all their stuff and leave me in the courtroom," he says. "That scared the hell out of me. I wanted to testify real bad, but I was afraid if I told the judge what they said, the whole trial would be down the tubes."
If he had testified, Ind says, he would have told the jurors a lot more about his parents--especially his mother. "They heard from a bunch of different people, but most of it didn't portray how I was feeling, what I was up against. My lawyers didn't really portray what my mom was like--what a mean lady she was, how she could fill someone with pure despair. She was a master of manipulation. She could make you feel like total shit."
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.
For many years, it was widely accepted that people who killed their parents were ruthless psychopaths, in the vein of Denver's own John Gilbert Graham, who blew up his mother and 43 other airline passengers in 1955 in an attempt to collect her flight insurance. Even in the 1960s, the subject of child abuse was still so unmentionable that a sixteen-year-old named James Bresnahan chose to plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder rather than divulge the horrific circumstances that had led him to kill his parents, a prominent Broomfield physician and his wife. (Informed of the facts of the case, which have never been made public, Governor Richard Lamm later commuted the youth's life sentence; shunning all media interviews, Bresnahan went on to become a doctor.)
The tide of public opinion began to change in the early 1980s, right around the time sixteen-year-old Richard Jahnke shotgunned his father through a garage door in Cheyenne, Wyoming, while his seventeen-year-old sister, Deborah, waited in the family home, armed with a rifle. Both teens were charged as adults, and the subsequent child-abuse defense attracted a flood of national media attention, from People and Rolling Stone to 60 Minutes.
I was one of the cadre of reporters who covered the Jahnkes' trials in Cheyenne. I later wrote a book about the case, The Poison Tree, which was published shortly before a slew of books about similar cases--culminating in the cynical showmanship of the Menendez trials and the inevitable backlash against the so-called abuse excuse. (According to one author, the kid-killer genre has become so popular that the Menendez boys plagiarized key portions of their testimony about parental abuse from other books on the subject, including mine.)
It's easy to draw facile comparisons between the Jahnke case and that of Jacob Ind. Both the Jahnkes and the Inds lived in pristine, upper-middle-class homes, the last place a casual observer would expect to find abused or neglected children. Both families were struggling with secret money troubles and the stress of the approaching Christmas season at the time the crimes occurred. And in each case, the kids had been exhibiting strange behavior and reaching out for help, in their own damaged way, to teachers and friends for months before the killings.
Yet the superficial similarities are less striking than the differences. Unlike Jacob Ind, Richard Jahnke actually reported his father for child abuse, and the authorities did nothing. Unlike Ind, Jahnke took the stand to explain how he'd tried to defend not only himself but his sister and his mother from a gun-toting, daughter-molesting maniac. Unlike Ind, Jahnke did not hire an assassin or try to arrange a hit on said accomplice from jail.
One more crucial difference: Richard Jahnke, whom I've now known for fifteen years, has always had a terrible knowledge of his own transgression, a sense of guilt that will probably be with him his entire life. The jury saw that and found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Wyoming governor Ed Herschler saw it and stepped in to commute his five- to fifteen-year prison sentence to three years in a youth facility; his sister received probation.
True, Ind claims to have been more severely abused than the Jahnkes; his supporters tend to cite the abuse as if it explains everything, including his seeming inability to grasp the enormity of his crime. Even a cold child has his allies--sometimes in the unlikeliest places.
One of the witnesses the Ind jury never heard was Cindy Sandoz, Pamela Jordan's older sister. Sandoz didn't have much contact with the Jordans when the children were small; she did, however, visit their home in Woodland Park frequently in the late 1980s, about five years before the murders. What she saw made a lasting impression on her.
"Their home was the only place I've ever been where I felt a real presence of evil," Sandoz says. "That's the only way I can describe it."
At the time, Sandoz was going through a divorce in Wyoming and was looking forward to reconnecting with her sister, who'd recently moved to Colorado from California. The two had not seen much of each other in years, and Sandoz was shocked at how much Pam had changed. Pam had been raised to be very feminine, Sandoz says, but now she seemed quite mannish in appearance--and unbearably aggressive and demanding. Kermode, who supposedly was on the wagon, was slipping into a tavern in Green Mountain Falls to get drunk. The couple exhibited no warmth toward each other; and whenever Jacob and Charles were around, it always seemed they were being punished for something.
"Pam was terribly verbally abusive to the children," Sandoz says. "Lots of profanity, lots of demeaning language--they couldn't do anything right. They couldn't eat, drink or brush their teeth without her permission. When they ate, she put the portions on their plates, and they weren't allowed to have any liquids with the meal. It was so odd to me."
Sandoz never saw Kermode beat Jacob or Charles, but she did see Pam slap them and send them to their rooms. Most of all, she remembers her sister's strong will and cruel tongue, which Jacob Ind insists was more terrible than any beating. "Pam wasn't anyone you could reason with," Sandoz says. "You couldn't even state an opinion. If she disagreed with you, you'd just better shut up."
At one point, Charles, Jacob, Pam and Cameron Jordan, Kermode's son from a previous marriage, drove up to Wyoming to visit Sandoz and her mother, the Inds' maternal grandmother. When the grandmother became ill, the group had to make an emergency trip to Denver in the Jordans' motor home. The drive was a shrieking nightmare.
"The kids were saying terrible things about Pam," Sandoz recalls, "and Pam was just screaming obscenities, telling the kids they were no good and to shut their mouths. The kids were talking about killing her. I kept my kids in the back of the motor home, and we were practically cowering, it was so bad."
Sandoz became estranged from her younger sister not long after the trip. The Jordans, she says, went out of their way to pick fights with their in-laws, as if they wanted to alienate their kids from the rest of the family. She didn't want her own children around Kermode--who collected books on torture and had secretly propositioned Sandoz--or around Pam and her domineering behavior. "I always thought somehow the kids would end up getting killed," she says.
Sandoz was summoned to Ind's murder trial as a potential defense witness; her mother was called to testify, but she wasn't. "It was really frustrating," she says. "We were privy to no information. Anytime we asked about anything, we were told, 'Sorry, there's a gag order.' Attorneys never returned our calls. It's like they tried to keep us in the dark and divided."
If she had testified, she adds, she would have told the jury what she knew about the family dynamics in the Jordan household and in the family her sister came from. "I was willing to say that my sister learned some of her abusive behaviors from her parents," she says.
Johnson never interviewed Sandoz or her mother for The Murder of Jacob, and Sandoz disputes many of the claims the book makes about Pam's side of the family. Yet Sandoz and her mother have joined in Johnson's efforts to reopen the case. "Mary Ellen's heart is in the right place," Sandoz says. "She's very pro-Jacob."
Dennis Sladek, the attorney seeking a hearing for a new trial, readily admits that his efforts amount to "Tuesday-morning quarterbacking" on a complex, high-profile murder case. Still, he suggests there are several issues that might be grounds for a fresh appeal, from "newly discovered evidence" to possible ineffective assistance of counsel to insufficient investigation by authorities.
"Without criticizing anyone involved, there's clearly some things there that I question," he says. "First of all, why didn't Jacob take the stand? You very rarely have a defendant you want to put on the stand in a criminal case, but in a situation like this--a fifteen-year-old boy with no priors, who's clearly going to be somewhat emotional--to me, that would be an ideal situation."
Sladek declines to discuss what sort of new facts he might bring to the judge's attention, since he and his investigators haven't completed their own review of the evidence yet. But unanswered questions and conspiracy theories have hung around the five-year-old case like rotten leftovers in an old fridge. There has been speculation that Charles Ind, whose alibi the night of the murders was challenged by his roommate, may have been more directly involved in Jacob's plot than either brother cares to admit--a theory raised by lawyers for Gabrial Adams but dismissed by the prosecution because of the lack of any physical evidence linking Charles to the crime scene.
There's also been considerable talk about a coverup at the Teller County Department of Social Services. Johnson has identified several former DSS employees who claim that a caseworker visited the Jordan home a few weeks before the slayings but took no action against the parents. One of her sources told Westword that he walked in on agency officials who were shredding documents, presumably related to the Ind investigation, on the evening after the murders.
But others familiar with the case say they doubt there's much "new evidence" waiting to be discovered. Kaufman says his own investigators looked into the shredded-documents story. "As I recall, it was baseless," he says, "but I do wish Dennis and Jacob all the luck in the world. Maybe if you got a good enough record in the civil case, you could show new evidence."
Former prosecutor Aspinwall has heard about shredded documents, too, and he's even more skeptical. "I have a hard time believing someone would do that," he says. "I have a hard time believing that there's any credible new evidence here."
Whether new evidence would sway a jury on the crucial issue of self-defense is an even bigger question. Battered-wife cases have managed to stretch the notion of self-defense to include killing a tormentor in his sleep, Aspinwall notes, but Colorado law doesn't look favorably on such a defense when the killer hires a third party to do the dirty work.
But Sladek suggests he may be able to marshal enough evidence of abuse and botched intervention by the state to tip the scales in Ind's favor. "We're not condoning Jacob's actions," he says. "The question is, should he have been charged with first-degree murder?"
Cindy Sandoz wonders about that. Much as she loved her sister, she says, she also wants to help her nephew. The thought of him spending his entire life behind bars sickens her. "I can't even go by a pet shop and see an animal that's caged," she says. "That's how much this bothers me."
Like Jacob Ind, Sandoz believes in an afterlife. "I'm not just doing this for Jacob," she says. "I'm doing this for my sister. My belief is, I may have an opportunity to see her again in the Resurrection. I really want to tell her that I did everything I could on behalf of her son.
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