‘Weak’ case against accused serial killer Homer Jackson?

Homer Jackson will appear before a judge Thursday for a motions hearing

Homer Lee Jackson is accused of the 1980s killing of these 4 women: (clockwise) Essie Jackson, Angela Anderson, Tonja Harris, Lantanga Watts. Jackson was arrested in Portland on Oct. 16, 2015 (PPB photos)
Homer Lee Jackson is accused of the 1980s killing of these 4 women: (clockwise) Essie Jackson, Angela Anderson, Tonja Harris, Lantanga Watts. Jackson was arrested in Portland on Oct. 16, 2015 (PPB photos)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Homer Lee Jackson may have killed so many people that he has lost count – over the decades – of the exact number of victims.

That’s a theory, at least, presented by state prosecutors in newly filed court documents. But his defense attorney is seeking to have his statements to police, and the indictment itself, thrown out.

Jackson, 56, is charged with 13 counts of aggravated murder. He is being held behind bars at the Multnomah County Inverness Jail.

The Portland Police Bureau Cold Case Homicide Unit alleges Jackson is responsible for the deaths of three women and a teenager. Three of the homicides happened in 1983. The fourth happened in 1987.

Essie Jackson, Angela Anderson, Tonja Harris and Latanga Watts are all believed to be killed in the 1980s by Homer Lee Jackson, who was arrested in Portland on October 16, 2015 (PPB photos)
Essie Jackson, Angela Anderson, Tonja Harry and Latanga Watts are all believed to be killed in the 1980s by Homer Lee Jackson, who was arrested in Portland on October 16, 2015 (PPB photos)

On Thursday, Jackson will appear before Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Michael A. Greenlick as part of an all-day motions hearing.

Jackson’s criminal defense attorney, Conor Huseby, will ask that the entire case be dismissed, or at the very least, the four murder cases separated into individual cases.

If all four murder cases went to trial at once, “substantial prejudice” would result, Huseby wrote in court documents.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office feels otherwise.

“There is ample evidence that demonstrates how the crimes in this case are similar,” deputy district attorney Susan O’Connor wrote in court documents.

Jackson was arrested on Oct. 15, 2015 at his residence in Northeast Portland. He was held by police for questioning for two days before being booked into jail.

He is charged with the deaths of Essie Jackson, Tonja Harry, Angela Anderson, and Latanga Watts.

All four victims were black females. Each worked as a prostitute in North and Northeast Portland. They were known to work Northeast Union Avenue, now known as Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

In each case, according to the state, the victim’s breasts were exposed and the pants of each victim was either unzipped, unbuttoned or pulled down. They each died from some sort of asphyxiation.

The following account of each death has been obtained by police and court documents filed by the state and defense attorneys.

Essie Jackson in an undated photo (KOIN, file)
Essie Jackson in an undated photo (KOIN, file)

Essie Jackson

The body of Essie Jackson, 23, was found March 23, 1983 at Overlook Park. Her body appeared to have been dropped over a fence, and was in the advance stages of post-mortem decomposition. She has no relationship to the defendant.

Essie Jackson’s mother told police that she last saw her daughter on Jan. 21, 1983 when she drove her daughter to the intersection of Northeast Union Avenue and Northeast Failing Street.

Her boyfriend told police that he had last seen her on Feb. 13, 1983 in the area of Northeast Union Avenue.

Both sides acknowledge that fingernail scrapings from Essie Jackson failed to detect Homer Lee Jackson’s DNA.

“Not one piece of evidence has been discovered linking Mr. Jackson in any way to Essie Jackson’s murder,” according to the motion filed by the defense.

There was a blood stain found on Essie Jackson’s denim pants, but Homer Lee Jackson was excluded from being a DNA contributor. To date, it remains unknown if police have identified whose blood was found on Essie Jackson’s pants.

During his police interrogation, Homer Lee Jackson was shown several crime scene photos “which he studied very carefully,” according to the state’s motions. When questioned, the state contends that he made “inculpatory statements and admissions.”

“I don’t know if I rolled her down, threw her down, or whatever…that’s something I don’t know,” Jackson reportedly told detectives, according to the prosecutors.

Jackson reportedly told detectives he remembered the Overlook Park homicide.

Huseby disputes the reported admissions.

“Mr. Jackson, during his interrogation with police, never admitted to even knowing Essie Jackson, let alone participating in any way in her death,” the defense attorney motion states.

Huseby claims there are “a number of viable” suspects in the Essie Jackson murder case, but no evidence that ties Homer Lee Jackson to her death.

Tonja Harry

Tonja Harry in an undated photo (KOIN, file)
Tonja Harry in an undated photo (KOIN, file)

In West Delta Park, on July 9, 1983, the body of Tonja Harry, 19, was found.

Her body had some lacerations, fresh needle marks on her arm, some injuries to her face and an apparent ligature mark around her neck.

She was found face down, partially submerged in a pond. An autopsy report shows she died of drowning.

Police also found paper towels with semen on them. According to the defense’s motion, the semen matched an unidentified male. Additionally, a hair found on Harry’s clothing matched the DNA found on the semen “soaked paper towels,” Huseby wrote.

Additional evidence had been collected from the scene including a belt that had been broken into three pieces.

The Oregon State Police Crime Lab was reportedly “unable to exclude” Jackson as a DNA contributor to the belt.

“…[E]ven assuming Jackson’s DNA was even on the belt, he was not the only contributor of DNA to that belt,” according to the defense motion.

Cigarette butts that were tested by the crime lab for DNA never matched for Jackson.

The defense counsel maintains that Homer Lee Jackson “did not admit” to any involvement in Tonja Harry’s murder.

The defense council also appears to be concerned about what they suggest may have been a lack of police investigative work.

Apparently, on Nov. 19, 1983, a man called 911 and said that he had killed a girl in a park about three months earlier. Dispatchers sent the information to detectives, “though it appears the police either didn’t follow up or were unable to determine who the caller was,” according to the defense motion.

The state, through its motion, claims that detectives at the time investigated Harry’s pimp as a potential suspect. He was cleared as a suspect.

Angela Anderson

Angela Anderson in an undated photo. The 14-year-old was killed in Portland in 1983, and her murder remains unsolved. (PPB)
Angela Anderson in an undated photo. The 14-year-old was killed in Portland in 1983, and her murder remains unsolved. (PPB)

The body of Angela Anderson, 14, was found inside a then-vacant house located at 416 NE Going Street.

She was found on September 22, 1983. Her wrists were cut superficially and she had a cord tied around her neck. An autopsy determined she died of strangulation.

Jackson’s fingerprint was reportedly found on a crawl space door in the room where Anderson’s body was found. A cigarette butt in the room was matched, by DNA, as belonging to Jackson.

However, the defense team argues “an unidentified male’s DNA was found on the murder weapon (the rope tied around Ms. Anderson’s neck.)”

The state maintains that Jackson “made specific admissions” about Anderson’s homicide. The defense calls the admissions “complicated.”

Jackson and Anderson reportedly met in Northeast Portland at Irvington Park where they discussed a prostitution deal.

Jackson reportedly said “I know I did kill her. I think I strangled her. I think that’s what I did.” He also said “You know I have, I still have dreams about her. And it’s like I, I’ve been telling myself, one day you know they’re gonna come to your door.”

The defense counsel writes that “ultimately Jackson was unable to tell police much more than that he killed Angela Anderson, but did not remember doing it.”

Records show that Jackson incorrectly guessed that Anderson had been stabbed when police questioned him about how she died.

“You know I don’t know who was first, second, third. You know, I don’t – I don’t know. I wasn’t keepin’ no score card.”

When police pressed Jackson that Anderson wasn’t his first murder victim, Jackson said, “I don’t know what, what number she would be. You know, that’s the only thing I know, I don’t know what number she is.”

Jackson added that “she could be number 25 for all I know. I don’t know. You know I don’t know who was first, second, third. You know, I don’t – I don’t know. I wasn’t keepin’ no score card.”

Homer Lee Jackson in a series of mug shots over the years from the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office
Homer Lee Jackson in a series of mug shots over the years from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office

He added: “You know I don’t know who was first, who was last, who was second, who was fifth.”

Huseby writes that the admissibility of the confession is in dispute.

The defense claims that for the first three hours of the police questioning, Jackson was denying any involvement. Huseby claims police then went beyond their standard training and made promises of leniency and legal advice.

“This is an admission to not only the Angela Anderson murder, but implicates (Jackson) in all the murders in that he is in essence admitting to killing many women,” the state wrote in response.

Latagna Watts

Latanga Watts seen in an undated photo released by PPB on October 16, 2015. The 29-year-old woman was killed in March 1987.
Latanga Watts seen in an undated photo released by PPB on October 16, 2015. The 29-year-old woman was killed in March 1987.

Latanga Watts, 29, was found in an empty lot at North Concord Avenue and North Going Court on March 18, 1987.

The medical examiner determined that Watts was killed by manual strangulation.

Retired Portland Police Officer Harry Jackson (no relation to the defendant) reported that he saw Watts on March 17, 1987 on Union Avenue – where she had frequently worked as a prostitute.

Fingernail scrapings from Watts were sent to the OSP Crime Lab. On Dec. 1, 2014, the lab reported a mixture of DNA, with two contributors, was found in the left hand fingernail scrapings of Watts.

The minor profile was consistent with Watts’; the major profile was searched against the stored offender profiles in the CODIS database.

The major profile found at the Watts homicide matched a cigarette butt that was left at the Angela Anderson homicide scene, according to the state prosecutors’ motion.

After investigators collected Jackson’s DNA, the crime lab determined that Jackson’s DNA matched both the cigarette butt DNA profile from the Anderson crime scene and the left hand fingernail scrapings of Watts’ homicide.

However, the defense notes that the crime lab also found at least five males’ DNA on the scarf around Watts’ head. The crime lab was unable to develop enough DNA for comparison purposes. They also point out under Watts’ right hand fingernails, there were DNA profiles from at least three separate males, but the crime lab could not compare.

Fingerprints found on the plastic tarping that Watts body was found in did not belong to Jackson, the defense claims. His attorney also maintains that he never admitted to being responsible for Watts’ death.


Huseby finalizes his motion by writing that “contrary to what Detective Jim Lawrence wrote in his police report, after ‘confessing’ to killing Angela Anderson Mr. Jackson never ‘went on to make admissions to his participation in the deaths of Latagna Watts, Tonja Harry, and Essie Jackson.’”

“A jury would have no difficulty whatsoever being able to evaluate and separately consider the evidence as it pertains to each victim,” the state wrote in its response.

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