Man convicted of capital murder in death of formerly homeless woman

Posted Friday, Mar. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- A jury took less than 90 minutes Friday to find James Wesley Jackson guilty of capital murder in the death of Jo Beth Marchand, a 59-year-old woman who had clawed her way out of homelessness.

Because prosecutors waived the death penalty, Jackson, 43, of Fort Worth, received an automatic life sentence without parole.

Defense attorney Warren St. John said he does not believe that the state proved its capital murder case and will appeal the decision.

Marchand had a tough life but endured an even tougher death, according to prosecutors.

Jackson, who was suspected of burglarizing Marchand's house, sexually assaulting her and strangling her, chose an easy target, prosecutors said.

"Some of her deficiencies made her the perfect target for someone like James Jackson," Bryan Hoeller, Tarrant County assistant district attorney, said during closing arguments. "We know she did not stand a chance against James Jackson."

Marchand had problems keeping her balance and would sometimes fall and was mentally challenged, Hoeller said.

Testimony from the Tarrant County medical examiner's office revealed that she suffered 29 bruises, vaginal tears, a crushed larynx and a broken nose.

Marchand lived at the Presbyterian Night Shelter for seven years before church friends helped her move into an apartment through a Fort Worth Housing Authority program. Friends described her as gregarious but guarded.

Prosecutor Sheila Wynn told the jury that Marchand was expecting a friend to come by with her bus pass and a small stipend. That's why there were no signs of forced entry, Wynn said.

Wynn cautioned the jury not to take Jackson's word about what happened on the night before Marchand's body was found on Dec. 2, 2011. Jackson, Wynn said, lied about almost everything.

"Every time he's confronted with something, the story changes a little bit," Wynn said. During the third part of a videotaped interview with Fort Worth police Detective W.D. Paine, Jackson said he walked into the open door of Marchand's apartment and started looking for items to steal.

Jackson said that after putting coins, towels and clothing in trash bags he found beneath the sink, he went to a nearby apartment. Jackson returned to Marchand's apartment and was searching the bedroom closet for more items to steal when he saw a woman behind him, he told the detective.

According to his statement, Jackson told her that he made a mistake and wanted to leave, but instead of panicking, she kissed him.

"She didn't behave normally," Jackson told Paine.

Jackson said they had sex for 45 minutes. Afterward, Jackson said, he tried to leave, but Marchand blocked his way.

Jackson said he grabbed a cellphone charger held by Marchand and tried to pull her off balance so he could get past. She fell, Jackson said, and the charger cord was wrapped around her neck.

He used the cord to drag her into the closet, according to the videotaped statement.

Marchand resisted and held onto the closet frame until the cord broke, Jackson said. By then, Marchand was facedown inside the closet, Jackson said, and he threw clothing and a comforter on her to keep her from trying to stop him from leaving.

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