Crime

Victim, suspect in quadruple homicide had history of domestic violence, police said

Travane Jackson and Jerrica Spellman had a years-long “ongoing domestic violence situation” before Spellman and her three young children were stabbed to death Wednesday in their apartment at Elizabeth Canty Homes, authorities said at a news conference Thursday.

“At this point in time, we believe that they are his children,” Police Chief Ricky Boren said of the youngest victims, 3-year-old King Jackson, 1-year-old Kensley Jackson and 1-month-old Kristen Jackson, who were found dead with their mother.

The apartment is off Cusseta Road near 20th Avenue, where Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan pronounced the four dead around 9:45 p.m. Spellman’s family called police to request they conduct a “welfare check” on the victims at 8:53 p.m. Wednesday, Boren said.

The boyfriend, whose full name is Travane Brandon Jackson, 27, was arrested later in east Columbus, and charged with four counts of murder related to family violence, Boren said.

The couple had a “common-law” relationship akin to marriage, and had been together for several years, the chief said, adding this was not Jackson’s first arrest on allegations of domestic abuse involving Spellman.

Police records show he was charged May 17, 2018, with simple battery involving family violence for an alleged assault on Spellman at Lot 41-B, 527 Farr Road, where officers said Jackson was living at the time. The report listed Spellman’s address as a home on Sweetwater Drive.

That case still was pending in Muscogee State Court.

According to the office of solicitor general, which prosecutes State Court offenses, Spellman called police 6:50 p.m. to report she was having a verbal confrontation with her children’s father and feared it would turn physical.

Officers arriving at the mobile home noticed that she had blood on her left cheek, her nose was bruised, and she was apprehensive about explaining the injuries. They also saw Jackson’s forehead and right knuckle were bleeding, according to their report.

They asked Jackson to step outside so they could speak with him privately, and asked about his injuries. He said he wasn’t sure why his forehead was bloody, but he had injured his hand punching a wall days earlier.

Asked about Spellman’s injuries, he told police their argument escalated until he pushed her, and she fell and hit her face on a table. Officers said Spellman told them Jackson pushed her accidentally, and she repeatedly tried to blame herself for what happened.

It was Jackson’s first allegation of family violence, so it was designated for “deferred adjudication,” meaning his prosecution was delayed while he took five weeks of anger management classes, which he completed this past January, prosecutors said. He also paid $140 in court costs.

Because he successfully completed the program, his charges could have been dismissed, when his case came back to court, they said.

Authorities said Spellman never asked for a temporary restraining or “stay away” order to protect herself or her children from Jackson while that case was pending, so nothing prohibited their continuing to live together.

Weapon found

“We have recovered what we believe to be the weapon,” Boren said of Wednesday’s homicides. He declined to give other details, saying the investigation had a long way to go before detectives had more specifics.

He praised the work of investigators in the department’s patrol division and robbery-assault unit, whom he said were personally affected by what they witnessed at the scene. They would have access to counseling if needed, he said.

He also thanked neighbors and the victim’s family, who pulled together to help police at the scene and were fully cooperative. “We don’t always enjoy that,” he said.

Jackson is set for an initial appearance in Columbus Recorder’s Court at 9 a.m. Saturday, for an official reading of the charges against him, but no testimony is expected until a full hearing rescheduled for 9 a.m. July 26, the chief said.

Meanwhile Jackson is held in the Muscogee County Jail without bond.

Besides his 2018 charge of simple battery, he had previous arrests dating back to 2013, according to jail records:

  • He was charged with violating probation on Aug. 12, 2016.
  • He was charged with felony possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute it, possessing a drug-related object, stopping in the street and driving with unsafe tires on June 22, 2013.

Police said he aroused suspicion when he stopped a 1997 Chevy Tahoe on 12th Avenue about 3:30 a.m., blocking traffic. He was caught with a digital scale, a large bag of marijuana and several small bags, officers said.

The case was resolved through a negotiated plea on May 12, 2014, when Judge Arthur Smith III sentenced Jackson to serve a year in jail and seven years on probation.

At the time, Jackson was living on Harbin Street and working at a car wash and detailing shop on Forrest Road, according to court records.

While no decision has been made on how prosecutors will pursue the quadruple-murder case after the suspect’s initial court hearings, District Attorney Julia Slater said she has asked police to allow her a “walk-through” of the crime scene before they relinquish control of it.

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