College student charged with killing family blamed it on masked intruder


A college student murdered his parents and sister after being told he needed to get a job or move out – then blamed an intruder, police say.   

Alex Jackson, 20, called 911 on Tuesday to report that he and his dad had been shot by a male intruder at their home in Cedar Rapids, according to a criminal complaint.

Officers who responded found his father, 61-year-old Jan Jackson, 68-year-old Melissa Jackson and 19-year-old Sabrina Jackson dead from gunshot wounds in different rooms of the home. 

They also found Alex suffering from a gunshot wound to his foot.

Alex allegedly told police that he woke up to the sound of gunfire and was shot during a struggle with a masked man over the rifle.

Alex Jackson, 20, is charged with killing his parents and younger sister in their home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday before telling police a masked gunman was responsible.

Alex Jackson, 20, is charged with killing his parents and younger sister in their home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday before telling police a masked gunman was responsible.

It wasn’t immediately clear if his gunshot wound was self-inflicted or obtained in a struggle with one of the family members he stands accused of killing. 

He claimed he and his father had left the rifle on the fireplace after cleaning it the previous night, the complaint says.

Police, who recovered the .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle, found no sign of forced entry or burglary at the home. 

Police found 61-year-old Jan Jackson, 68-year-old Melissa Jackson and 19-year-old Sabrina Jackson (above) dead from gunshot wounds in different rooms of the home

Police found 61-year-old Jan Jackson, 68-year-old Melissa Jackson and 19-year-old Sabrina Jackson (above) dead from gunshot wounds in different rooms of the home

Alex denied shooting his family members but did admit that his father had recently told him he needed to find a job or move out of the home, according to the complaint.

Jackson was treated for his wounded foot at a hospital before he was booked on three counts of first-degree murder late Tuesday at the Linn County jail. 

He made a brief initial court appearance Wednesday morning dressed in a yellow jumpsuit and was ordered jailed on a $3 million bond. 

Jackson had a set of crutches beside him during the virtual court hearing.  

A public defender representing him, Lindsay Garner, said he would plead not guilty after a formal charging document is filed.  

The case marks the first known triple homicide in Cedar Rapids since 1982 and only the second since at least 1959, according to police.

The audio of Jackson’s 911 call cannot be released because it contains information of ‘material importance to our investigation’, according to a police spokesman.  

The slayings shocked acquaintances of the Jackson family, who had lived in the home on Oak Leaf Court in a quiet suburban neighborhood for a decade. 

Friends planned a candlelight vigil to remember Sabrina and her parents for Wednesday evening at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids where she and her brother attended. 

Alex Jackson made a brief initial court appearance Wednesday morning dressed in a yellow jumpsuit and was ordered jailed on a $3 million bond. He had crutches beside him after being treated in hospital for his gunshot wound

Alex Jackson made a brief initial court appearance Wednesday morning dressed in a yellow jumpsuit and was ordered jailed on a $3 million bond. He had crutches beside him after being treated in hospital for his gunshot wound 

The college student called 911 to report that a masked intruder had broken into his home (above) and shot his family. Police found 61-year-old Jan Jackson, 68-year-old Melissa Jackson and 19-year-old Sabrina Jackson dead from gunshot wounds in different rooms of the home

The college student called 911 to report that a masked intruder had broken into his home (above) and shot his family. Police found 61-year-old Jan Jackson, 68-year-old Melissa Jackson and 19-year-old Sabrina Jackson dead from gunshot wounds in different rooms of the home

Alex and Sabrina Jackson were students at the University of Iowa studying in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, according to the school’s online directory. The university is located in Iowa City, about 35 miles south of their home.

‘Our thoughts are with all those impacted by this tragic situation,’ said university spokeswoman Anne Bassett, who said counseling and other services were available for students and employees.

Alex graduated from Kennedy High in 2019, a year before his sister, according to a spokeswoman for the Cedar Rapids school district. He played the flute and his sister played the oboe in the school’s symphony band in 2019.

Sabrina introduced then-presidential candidate Andrew Yang when he visited Cedar Rapids to discuss global warming in December 2019, according to news reports.

Alex became an Eagle Scout in 2017 after working with the Save Cedar Rapids Heritage organization on a project to fix up a historic home. He spent hours painting the walls and ceiling of the home, originally built in the late 1800s, so that low-income families could move in, according to Boy Scouts of America Troop 766.

Alex had no prior criminal record in Iowa, not an even a speeding ticket, according to a search of the state’s online court database. 

His parents and sister also had no record of legal troubles in Iowa. 

Before moving to Cedar Rapids in 2011, the family had previously lived in Oregon.

Alex was on suicide watch Wednesday in accordance with the jail’s practice for new inmates charged with crimes that could lead to life imprisonment, Sheriff Brian Gardner said. 

If convicted of first-degree murder, he would not be eligible for parole.



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