Jackson trial: Closing arguments and deliberations coming this week

Former UI student Alexander Jackson is charged for the killings of his parents and sister, who was also a UI student.

Sabine Martin, Managing Editor

The trial of former University of Iowa business student Alexander Jackson, who faces three counts of first-degree murder for the killings of his parents and sister, is expected to move into closing arguments and final deliberations early this week. 

Alexander Jackson, 22, is accused of fatally shooting his father, Jan Jackson, 61; mother, Melissa Jackson, 68; and sister, Sabrina Jackson, 19, with a .22 rifle in their Cedar Rapids residence at around 8:23 a.m. on June 15, 2021. Sabrina Jackson also attended the UI.  

Alexander Jackson called 911 and told police that an intruder wearing black clothes and green shoes entered his home, shot and killed his family members, and shot him in the foot.  

“I didn’t do it. I would never hurt my family. They are important to me. I love them,” Alexander Jackson told investigators Matt Denlinger and Sarah Lacina during a multi-hour interrogation in the hospital after the incident. 

This incident is the second triple homicide case in Cedar Rapids history.

Autopsy disclosed in trial 

Kelly Kruse, an associate state medical examiner, said during the trial that autopsies confirmed that all three family members died of gunshot injuries.  

Jan Jackson was shot five times in his head, chest, and lower neck, Kruse said. A blunt force injury and deep cuts were also identified in the autopsy, which is potentially caused by a fall.

Alexander Jackson’s mother, Melissa Jackson, died from two gunshot injuries. Kruse said it is likely that one of the gunshot injuries to Melissa Jackson’s head, which left residual soot on the skin from gunpowder, was likely shot at close range. 

Kruse also said Sabrina Jackson died from a gunshot injury to her torso and left eye. 

State rests case after days of testimonies

The state counsel introduced its case with testimony from former Cedar Rapids Police Department crime scene investigator Brandon Boesenberg. 

Police identified a 22-caliber Browning semi-automatic rifle using Remington brand ammunition as the murder weapon. The rifle’s storage box was under Alexander Jackson’s bed when police entered the scene, and the rifle was lying near Jan Jackson’s body. 

Alexander Jackson told police he cleaned the rifle with his father the night before the killings.

Boesenberg said while some prints found on the murder weapon were inconclusive, latent prints on the right side of the gun matched Alexander Jackson’s palm print. Latent prints are created by friction ridges on parts of the finger or palm.

Alexander Jackson’s personal life explained in the defense’s case

Alexander Jackson told investigators in the hospital after the killings that he did well in his freshman year at the UI but only passed one of his classes he was enrolled in sophomore year out of 15 credit hours.  

He added that his dad promised to pay for half of his college tuition, and he paid the other half. 

He told investigators he didn’t show any effort in school. His family told him if he didn’t get a job, he would have to move out.  

“We understand the baggage that you are under. These things don’t just come out of the blue,” Denlinger told Alexander Jackson. 

The state rested its case Friday, and the defense brought Alexander Jackson’s former Eagle Scout  leader and UI Hospitals and Clinics employee Levi Gritton to the stand. He told the jury that he met the defendant in 2014.

The defense counsel went over Alexander Jackson’s Eagle Scout merit badges — a total of 34 badges — including one for rifle shooting. Gritton said the program uses .22 rifles, and scouts learn how to care for and use guns. He added Alexander Jackson was proficient in rifle shooting.  

Alexander Jackson also told investigators that he shot long guns at a gun range in Iowa City. 

Gritton said Alexander Jackson never caused trouble toward other Eagle Scout members. 

“He was a great kid. I could count on him in any situation,” Gritton said in his testimony. “I would always rely on him to take on more gear and take more of a leadership position.”

Following Gritton’s testimony, Ryan Burrack, 21, a University of Northern Iowa student, said he has known Alexander Jackson since they met at Harding Middle School in Cedar Rapids. 

He said Alexander Jackson never complained about having to spend time with his family and was not violent.