DNA linked prison inmate to Fort Worth killing

Posted Wednesday, Mar. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- Days before he was to be freed from a Texas prison, a 39-year-old convict is instead awaiting transfer to the Tarrant County Jail to face accusations that he sexually assaulted and fatally beat a woman in Fort Worth in 2005.

Ricky James Jack was charged Tuesday with capital murder in connection with the sexual assault and slaying of Ella Sterling, whose partially clothed body was found June 20, 2005, in brush behind a convenience store at 4100 E. Berry St.

Sterling, 51, died from a blow on the head.

Jack was scheduled to be released from prison Thursday.

The arrest came after cold case investigator Sarah Jane Waters reviewed the unsolved homicide and identified clothing that could be screened for evidence using current forensic testing, said homicide Sgt. Cheryl Johnson.

Johnson said a DNA profile was obtained from the clothing and entered into the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.

In January, Waters was told that the DNA database had linked the profile to Jack, a current inmate at the Lychner State Jail in Humble.

"Once the CODIS hit was obtained, research showed Jack was due to be released in early March," Johnson said. "Due to the violent nature of this offense, we felt it was important to get all testing completed prior to the release."

With a search warrant, Waters obtained a new DNA sample from Jack, and subsequent testing confirmed the match, Johnson said.

A capital murder warrant for Jack was obtained Feb. 26, Johnson said.

Family members have said that when younger, Sterling served in the Army and worked as a nurse but enjoyed partying more in her later life.

She was last seen leaving her east Fort Worth home on foot about 10 p.m. June 19, 2005. Around 3 p.m. the next day, her body was found about two blocks away outside the Savor Food Store at 4100 E. Berry St., which she frequented.

Edith Ervin, Sterling's niece, said she and other relatives never gave up hope that an arrest would one day be made in her aunt's slaying.

"That's a weird feeling on the inside -- just to be wondering where he's at." Ervin said. "Are you walking past him? Are you staring him in the face? You never know."

Tarrant County court records show that from 2001 to 2006, Jack was convicted of possession of a controlled substance, credit card abuse and delivery of a controlled substance, for which he was sentenced to two one-year stints in state jail.

He also had misdemeanor convictions then for burglary of a vehicle and prostitution, court records show.

Since then, Jack has had three theft convictions in Harris County.

He was most recently sentenced in July to 240 days incarceration for theft under $1,500, state records show.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd

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