HOUSTON » Relatives of a Houston couple and their six children who were fatally shot in their home can’t understand why it took authorities four visits and repeated 911 calls before going inside, a family friend said Friday.
Jesi Greening, a spokeswoman for the family, shared with reporters Facebook messages that one of the victims, Valerie Jackson, had sent to her mother in Minnesota saying she was being held at gunpoint. One of the messages indicated Jackson was alive after deputies’ first visit to the home on Aug. 8, Greening said.
"It just doesn’t make sense to us that the house was not entered much, much earlier," Greening said from Minnesota during a conference call.
Jackson’s ex-domestic partner, David Conley, 48, had been jailed, facing capital murder charges in the deaths of the six children and two adults, until he was taken Friday under guard to a Houston hospital for treatment of what officials called a non-life-threatening, pre-existing medical condition. Authorities say Conley handcuffed most of the eight family members and eventually shot each of them in the head. His attorney hasn’t returned messages seeking comment about the allegations.
Killed in the shooting were: Jackson, 40; her husband, Dwayne Jackson, 50; and her children, 13-year-old Nathaniel, 11-year-old Honesty, 10-year-old Dwayne, 9-year-old Caleb, 7-year-old Trinity and 6-year-old Jonah. Authorities say Nathaniel was Conley’s son from his relationship with Valerie Jackson, while the Jacksons were the parents of the other five children.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday released a timeline of events from last weekend’s deadly shooting that showed deputies made four separate visits to the house over about a nine-hour period before going inside.
Deputy Thomas Gilliland, a sheriff’s office spokesman, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment Friday. Ininvestigators have said that they didn’t have enough information to go into the home until they saw the body of one of the children through a window during the fourth visit.
Greening said that on the day of the shooting, Valerie Jackson had first made three posts on Facebook, writing that she needed help, for someone to call police and that this wasn’t a joke.
At 10:23 a.m., Jackson’s mother, Barbara Yanske, got a private message on Facebook from her daughter that read "911 911 911 911."
At 10:27 a.m., Jackson sent another message that said, "He has phone and will ring. DVD has gun."
At 10:45 a.m., Yanske replied, "I called. What’s going on?"
According to the sheriff’s department, deputies first arrived at the home at 10:49 a.m.
According to Greening, at 11:57 a.m., Jackson sent another message to her mother saying, "Tuhey knck left."
"It’s spelled a little bit funny, but it’s clearly, ‘They knock left,’" Greening said. "That was the last contact we had with Valerie."
At 12:15 p.m., Jackson’s family is told by the sheriff’s department that no one responded when deputies knocked and they didn’t have probable cause to enter, Greening said.
"How it wasn’t probable cause when they are being told that someone has a gun inside, we don’t understand that," she said.
Legal experts say that while police can’t typically go into a home without permission or a search warrant, exceptions would be allowed under what’s known as exigent circumstances, where there is an emergency situation.
Greening said family members called Conley at 12:40 p.m. and he told them he was across town and didn’t know where Jackson was.
Jackson’s family made additional 911 calls to the sheriff’s department throughout the rest of the day. They were told at 9:15 p.m. that authorities were going into the home after discovering Conley had a warrant for his arrest, Greening said.
It was at that point that the child’s body was seen through the window.
Deputies trying to enter the home were met by gunfire from Conley, according to the sheriff’s department timeline. A standoff ensued between Conley and authorities until he surrendered at 11:58 p.m.
A funeral for the victims is set for Monday in Houston. The family will be buried in La Crosse, Wisconsin. A GoFundMe account has been set up by Jackson’s family to raise money for burial expenses.
Also Friday, the judge handling Conley’s case amended a sweeping gag order. The amended order still prevents lawyers, law enforcement officials and witnesses from speaking to the media.