A U.S. Army major and his wife are accused of torturing their three foster children for years, breaking their bones, force-feeding them hot sauce, denying them water and using one of their biological kids to guard the toilet bowls so the foster children couldn't try to quench their thirst, authorities said.
Carolyn Jackson, 35, was arrested Tuesday morning at the New Jersey home she shares with her husband; John Jackson, 37, who was based at the Picatinny Arsenal Installation in Morris County, surrendered to federal agents shortly after his wife's arrest, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said.
Both are charged in a 17-count indictment that includes conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, assault and more than a dozen counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The case is being prosecuted federally because the offenses were allegedly committed on a military base.
According to the indictment, the Jacksons engaged in a constant course of neglect and cruelty toward the three children they fostered and then adopted from August 2005 through April 2010 while they lived at Picatinny Arsenal. One of those children died in May 2008; the Jacksons are not charged in that child's death.
During the five years of abuse, the Jacksons allegedly told their three biological children not to report the physical assaults, saying the punishments and disciplinary techniques were meant to "train" the adopted children to behave.
Prosecutors say the Jacksons allegedly physically assaulted their children with various objects, giving two of them broken bones. The couple then allegedly denied the injured children medical attention.
On other occasions, the couple allegedly withheld food and water from their foster children, at times denying them water altogether, and beat the children when they were caught trying to sneak something to eat or drink.
In one case, the couple allegedly tasked one of their biological children with guarding the sinks and toilet bowls in their home on the military base to prevent one child from drinking water.
The Jacksons are also accused of using food as punishment, allegedly forcing their foster children to consume large amounts of red pepper flakes, hot sauce or raw onion. They also allegedly forced one child to ingest substances with excessive amounts of salt while being deprived of water, which caused a life-threatening condition.
At one point, prosecutors say a family friend told John Jackson that one of the children had reported the abuse in the household. Jackson then told his wife, who allegedly beat the child with a belt.
Authorities say the Jacksons gave officials false medical histories or blamed the injuries on the adoptive children's biological mother when questioned.
The Jacksons appeared in federal court in Newark Tuesday and were temporarily denied bail. Attorney information wasn't immediately available for the husband and a lawyer for the wife did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
All of the children are in the custody of the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
“Carolyn and John Jackson are charged with unimaginable cruelty to children they were trusted to protect," Fishman said in a statement. “The crimes alleged should not happen to any child, anywhere, and it is deeply disturbing that they would happen on a military installation. Along with the FBI, we will continue to seek justice for our communities' most vulnerable victims.”