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Johnetta Jackson, a 22-year-old mother of a young son and daughter, disappeared from her Des Moines apartment on Tuesday, May 4, 1993.
Police found blood and signs of a struggle inside the apartment, and Jackson’s car was also found burning.
The same day Jackson went missing, a Des Moines man who authorities believed knew Jackson fatally shot himself in the head when police went to question him.
On Sunday night, May 23, Jackson’s body was found in Four Mile Creek in Pleasant Hill, a Des Moines suburb just east of the city. Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. R.C. Wooters said her body had probably been in the creek since Jackson was reported missing.
Wooters performed an autopsy, but said officials may never know the cause of death.
“We were able to rule out strangulation, gunshot, stabbing, a blow to the head,” Wooters said in a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated May 25, 1993. “There is a possibility here that drugs may have been involved.”
Wooters indicated the crime lab would test for drugs, but said it was unlikely they would show up after so much time. Too much time had passed, he said, to determine whether or not Jackson had drowned.
Although no one has ever been charged or prosecuted in Johnetta Jackson’s murder, the Des Moines Police Department was able to clear (close) her case under the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program by “exceptional means.”
To clear an offense under UCR guidelines, the reporting agency must adhere to certain criteria, even though the UCR Program does not distinguish between offenses cleared by arrest and those cleared by exceptional means.
The FBI defines both cases as follows:
Cleared by Arrest
The law enforcement agency, for crime reporting purposes, may clear an offense when all of the following three conditions have been met for at least one person:
- The person has been arrested.
- The person has been charged with the commission of the offense.
- The case case has been turned over to the court for prosecution (whether following arrest, court summons, or police notice).
In its calculations, the UCR Program counts the number of offenses that are cleared, not the number of arrestees. The arrest of one person may clear several crimes, and the arrest of many persons may clear only one offense. In addition, some clearances that an agency records in a particular calendar year may pertain to offenses that occurred in previous years.
Cleared by Exceptional Means
In certain situations, elements beyond law enforcement’s control prevent the agency from arresting and formally charging the offender. When this occurs, the agency can clear the offense exceptionally. Law enforcement agencies must meet the following four conditions in order to clear an offense by exceptional means. The agency must have:
- Identified the offender.
- Gathered enough evidence to support an arrest, make a charge, and turn over the offender to the court for prosecution.
- Identified the offender’s exact location so that that the suspect could be taken into custody immediately.
- Encountered a circumstance outside the control of law enforcement that prohibits the agency from arresting, charging, and prosecuting the offender.
Examples of exceptional clearances include, but are not limited to, the death of the offender (e.g., suicide or justifiably killed by police or citizen); the victim’s refusal to cooperate with the prosecution after the offender has been identified; or the denial of extradition because the offender committed a crime in another jurisdiction and is being prosecuted for that offense.
Des Moines police were unable to prosecute the primary suspect in Jackson’s homicide because the suspect committed suicide.
No one, however, was ever officially charged or tried in Johnetta Jackson’s death. Her murder remains open in name only.
Johnetta E. Jackson was born September 11, 1970.
She had two young children — son Dominique and daughter La’Chaira.