Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Melvin Rees -- The Sex Beast

Without a Trace

It was 1959, the end of a decade of turmoil and violence, and a threshold of more to come. While Americans struggled to control their lives in the aftermath of World War II, the start of the Cold War, and the rise of racial tensions, incidents of multiple murder seemed to increase, especially in the latter half of the decade. On January 11, an event occurred that would throw light on an earlier crime and bring to the publics attention a chilling phenomenon that shadowed the cultures progress.

Carroll and Mildred Jackson, along with their two daughters, were missing. They had been driving home from visiting family near Apple Grove, VA. A relative of Mildreds was also driving home and saw a car abandoned along the road that looked like Carrolls. She called the police with her concerns. Patrols checked the car and found it empty. It was indeed the Jacksons car, but there was no sign of them, either at home or with any relatives. As time passed and they failed to turn up, it was evident that something had happened to them.

Police scoured the routes that the family probably had taken, but there were no clues. The Jacksons were just gone. They had an infant daughter, 18 months old, and a girl, 5. Relatives were concerned that even the children were gone. It seemed strange that an entire family would go missing, with no sign of a struggle, no blood, and no trail police could track. It remained a mystery, and as days became weeks, searchers and worried friends turned up nothing.

There is no book devoted entirely to this crime, despite how sensational it was at the time, but summaries of the story have been passed along from one collection of crimes to another, gleaned mostly from newspaper reports. Yet, some authors who purport to have complete information about the perpetrators of such crimes have missed this one entirely.

The Killers among Us, Book II
The Killers among Us, Book II
To attempt to gather clues, investigators examined Carroll Jacksons background, and Colin Wilson supplies it in The Killers among Us, Book II. Jackson was a quiet, retiring man who attended a Baptist church and appeared to have no enemies. He did not smoke or drink, and had met Mildred at the same church, where she was president of the local missionary society. They lived in a modest home and took their girls to Sunday school regularly. There were no problems to speak of in the family, and no feuds with relatives or neighbors. In short, the Jacksons appeared to be decent people who lived their lives according to the correct social conventions of the times.

The familys disappearance was reported in a local newspaper, with photos, in the hope that someone would come forward with information. Perhaps someone had seen them with a suspicious person, or had spotted them somewhere after the car was found. It seemed that there would surely be some bit of information, and that hunch proved to be correct. A couple came and told police about a suspicious incident that had happened to them on the same day the Jacksons disappeared. During the afternoon, they said, an older-model blue Chevrolet wildly flashing its lights had driven up behind and around them, stopping quickly and forcing them to the side of the road. As they waited, they saw a man step out of the car and walk toward them, but sensing danger and thinking quickly, they had put their car in reverse and escaped.

But he had scared them. They remembered what he looked like: He was tall, had a thin face, heavy eyebrows, dark hair and unusually long arms. He walked oddly. They thought he might have had a gun, but they did not stay long enough to find out. His manner was threatening and they were certain that if he managed to reach them before they got away, he would have harmed them. They figured that he meant to rob them, but now they believed he intended worse. They hoped their information would assist the police with the missing family.

Theirs was just one more in a long line of strange and disturbing stories from the 1950s.

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