D.C. mother gets 120 years in girls’ deaths

Associated Press / December 19, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Even as Banita Jacks was sentenced to 120 years in prison yesterday for killing four daughters whose bodies were found decomposing in her rowhouse, the girls’ lives remained mostly a mystery.

Investigators pieced together some details about the events that led to their deaths: The girls, ages 5 to 16, were kept as prisoners in their home, starved, and ultimately killed by their mother.

Their family has said little. There were no victim impact statements from Jacks’s relatives, who attended the hearing, or anyone else who might have given voice to their personalities and how they suffered.

“We can’t say what’s worse - the terror of knowing what your mother did to your sisters or knowing that she’s coming for you next,’’ prosecutor Deborah Sines said.

In July, Jacks, 34, was convicted of four counts of felony murder, three counts of premeditated first-degree murder, and four counts of first-degree child cruelty. She was acquitted of one count of premeditated first-degree murder in the death of her oldest daughter because the exact cause of death could not be determined.

The extreme decomposition made it difficult for specialists to determine exactly how and when the girls died, but medical examiners said the three youngest children were most likely strangled and 16-year-old Brittany was probably stabbed.

Sines said authorities pored over records, every scrap of paper seized from home to learn more about them.

“It is easy to forget these children,’’ Sines wrote in her sentencing memorandum. “Each child deserves attention at this sentencing.’’

According to the document, a high school counselor described Brittany as very motivated and smart. The girl told her counselor that she had to go to college and make money so that she could take care of her sisters. She was friendly, willing to help other students, a role model for others.