Noura Jackson (born March 17, 1987) is an
American criminal convicted of committing matricide by murdering
39-year-old Jennifer Jackson in 2005.
Noura Jackson was the only child of Nazmi Hassanieh
and Jennifer Jackson. After the couple divorced, Jennifer had a full
custody of Noura. On January 26, 2004 Nazmi Hassanieh who owned a gas
station in southeast Memphis, was murdered by a gun shot at his Kwik
Stop office. Jennifer worked as a bond trader raising Noura alone.
According to testimonies from family members and friends, the mother
and daughter had a turbulent relationship, mostly because of Noura's
usage of drugs and disregard for education.
Murder and trial
During the early hours of June 5, 2005 Noura's 39-year-old mother
Jennifer Jackson was brutally murdered in her bedroom by being stabbed
more than 50 times. Investigation revealed that at 4:04 a.m. on June
5, Noura was seen on a video surveillance of Walgreens buying bandages
for a cut on her hand, a fact that she had not mentioned during her
interrogation. At 4:20 a.m. she bought gas and at 5:00 a.m. she
claimed to have entered her house and found her mother dead.
Noura Jackson was arrested on September 29, 2005, three months into
the investigation and charged with second degree murder. The trial
started on February 9, 2009 at Shelby County Criminal Justice Center
in downtown Memphis. After the closing statements, the jury of eight
women and four men deliberated for nine hours and found her guilty.
She was convicted based largely on circumstantial evidence.
Judge Chris Craft sentenced her to 20 year and 9 months with no
possibility of parole. She was sent to Mark H. Luterrell Correctional
Center in Memphis. Although the defense filed a motion for a new trial
on the basis of alleged trial errors and inadmissible evidence, the
judge denied the appeal on July 17, 2009.
She filed another appeal on September 7th, 2011. Her lawyer,
Valerie Corder, claimed that Noura was a victim of a 'Win at all
At 15% of the total parricide perpetuators, Noura Jackson is one of
a few daughters who were 18 or younger when they murdered their
Noura Jackson is now serving her sentence in Tennessee Prison for
Women in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time of sentencing she was given
three years credit for time served while awaiting trial.
In 2011, Noura was investigated and found guilty for drug use in
the Tennessee prison. After the morphine was recovered from Noura, she
was sentenced to 10 days in solitary and $4 fine. She earns $0.25 per
hour working at the prison laundry. Since August 2010, Noura has been
disciplined three times
In popular culture
The story of Noura Jackson was shot in a 48 Hours Mystery
documentary My Mother's Murder which aired in April 2010.
Noura Jackson trial: 20 years, 9 months for
murder of mother
By Lawrence Buser - Memphis Commercial Appeal
March 27, 2009
When Noura Jackson finishes serving her prison
sentence for the 2005 stabbing death of her mother, she will be close
to her mother’s age.
Jackson, 22, who was convicted of second-degree
murder for the death of 39-year-old Jennifer Jackson, was sentenced
Friday to 20 years and 9 months in prison.
She will be credited with the 3 years she has been
in jail since her arrest in the case of matricide that has drawn
“Noura killed the only person who really loved
her,” Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft said during a five-hour
sentencing hearing. “All she wanted was to be free and have her money.
Her mother wanted her to go to college. It’s just a tragedy that this
happened, but no one could control her.”
Referring to sentencing guidelines, Craft rejected
the defense request for a minimum sentence of 13 years and the maximum
of 25 years recommended by state prosecutors.
Jennifer Jackson, an investment banker, was found
stabbed more than 50 times on June 5, 2005, in the bedroom of their
home on Newhaven at Mendenhall in East Memphis.
Her daughter, then 18, said she returned home
around 5 a.m. and found her mother’s body, but prosecutors argued at
her trial last month that Noura killed her mother hours earlier.
They said she then made a series of stops to buy
gas and cigarettes, and saved time-stamped receipts in an effort to
establish an alibi.
Noura also gave different explanations for a cut on
her left hand, which prosecutors suggested occurred during the attack.
The motive, they said, was anger that her mother
did not like her boyfriend, wanted her to stop using drugs and would
not give her money left by her father, who was killed a year earlier
in a holdup.
“Justice was served today,” Randolph Reeves, a
cousin of Jennifer Jackson, said after the sentencing. “I hope she
(Noura) can learn from this, but she has taken a lot away from us.
It’s a double tragedy for our family, but she made bad choices and she
has to live with that.”
Noura Jackson did not testify in her trial nor
during Friday’s hearing, but in a presentence report she said simply,
“I maintain my innocence.”
Defense attorney Valerie Corder asked the judge to
give Jackson the minimum sentence because of her youth and immaturity,
her potential for rehabilitation and her absence of a previous
She also said her client was emotionally scarred by
her mother’s two “tumultuous” marriages to men who were violent and
Corder said Jennifer Jackson’s unstable life led to
six moves in three states in one three-year period.
“The way to harmony and health is rehabilitation,”
said Corder, noting that Jackson has taken numerous self-help and
educational courses while incarcerated. “She has already begun a path
State prosecutor Steve Jones, however, said while
incarcerated Jackson also has had more than a half dozen writeups for
fighting, hiding medicine, refusing orders and kissing another inmate
in the women’s jail.
The two-week trial included more than 40 witnesses
and nearly 400 exhibits.
Jurors rejected premeditated first-degree murder,
which would have carried a life sentence.
Had she been acquitted, Noura would have stood to
inherit her mother’s estate, which is valued at about $1.47 million.
Attorney Genevieve Dix, who said she was Jennifer
Jackson’s best friend, read a victim-impact statement from Jackson’s
“The horror of it all is only heightened by the
fact that Noura has never shown any remorse, never shown any grief,”
Dix said in the hearing.
“It seems that she has no compassion, no sorrow, no
regrets. She did not take so much as a moment to mourn her mother’s
death. Rather, she was impatient to get back to an amoral life of
drugs and partying.”
While her sentence carries no parole, Jackson can
earn a time cut of up to 15 percent — about three years — for good
behavior and program participation.
A defense motion for a new trial will be heard by
Craft on April 24.
Noura Jackson convicted of second-degree murder
21-year-old faces 15 to 25 yearsbehind bars for
By Lawrence Buser - CommercialAppeal.com
February 21, 2009
Evidence showed that Noura Jackson was a distant
teenager, a drug user, an underage drinker, an angry daughter and
often a stranger to the truth.
In the eyes of a jury Saturday, evidence showed she
also was a killer.
After a two-week trial that included more than 40
witnesses and 392 exhibits, the Criminal Court jury of eight women and
four men found the 21-year-old Jackson guilty of second-degree murder
in the stabbing death of her mother, Jennifer.
"I'm so proud of that jury," said state prosecutor
Amy Weirich, who told jurors Noura killed her mother as "a perfect
storm" of personal issues reached a peak. "It's a great verdict. I've
never had a case go that long."
Jennifer Jackson, 39, an investment banker, was
stabbed more than 50 times in the early-morning hours of June 5, 2005,
at their home at 5001 New Haven at Mendenhall.
Her only child, who was then just 18, now faces 15
to 25 years in prison with no parole when she is sentenced March 20 by
Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft.
She has been in custody for nearly 31/2 years,
which will be deducted from her sentence.
"She's very upset," said defense attorney Valerie
Corder. "She's crying. She's on her way back to Jail East. This was an
uphill battle from day one. My client maintains she is not guilty."
The case was unusual not only for its length and
massive number of exhibits, but also for its rarity.
Experts on juvenile crime say that less than 1
percent of all homicides involve a mother killed by her child and that
less than 15 percent of those are committed by teenaged daughters.
"It was a very personal attack," said Weirich, who
acknowledged to jurors that no one wants to believe a daughter could
stab a mother 50 times.
"Jennifer was asleep and she snuck up on her and
began stabbing her. I could see her rage building to a point where she
could carry it out by herself very easily. The stab wounds to her face
were just hate marks."
When police asked Noura if she and her mother had
argued recently, she said, "Only the same kind that teenagers and
Defense attorneys noted that the medical examiner
said two knives may have been used, that a lab expert said
unidentified DNA was found in the bloody bed and that many of the
state's witnesses were "pothead" teenagers with foggy memories.
Despite the mounds of physical items from the home
and DNA from the crime scene presented by prosecutors, little if any
of the evidence pointed to Noura as the killer.
Instead, prosecutors Weirich and Steve Jones
presented a circumstantial case built on early-morning phone calls and
store receipts to track Noura's location as, they argued, she sought
to establish an alibi.
Jones said, "The cover-up gave her up."
Prosecutors also cited inconsistent statements she
made about how she sustained a cut on her left hand and noted her
anger with her mother in life and her apparent lack of grief after her
One witness said Noura wanted to go to the movies
or have a party less than 24 hours after her mother's death.
"Sometimes science is a great thing, but with a
situation like this, DNA swabs from the home and the fact that they
didn't even find Noura's fingerprints in the house, I think it speaks
volumes about how difficult it is to find scientific evidence," said
"In this case, with all of the blood, it was like
trying to find a needle in a needle stack. The fact that they didn't
find Noura's blood didn't mean it wasn't there."
Did Memphis teen stab mother to death?
A teenager's mother is murdered more than a year
after her father met the same fate. Were the deaths connected?
Richard Schlesinger reports - CBSNews.com
July 28, 2012
Jennifer Jackson had no shortage of friends and
Susan Tobey was one of the closest.
"Jennifer was probably one of the warmest, most
engaging, beautiful inside and out people I've ever known," Tobey
said. "When you got around Jennifer, you felt their energy. And their
energy was positive."
Jennifer was 39, divorced, and raising her
18-year-old daughter, Noura, in Memphis.
"Noura was the light of her life," said Tobey.
"When you have a single-parent family, the bond is
closer. It's not just your mom," Noura Jackson told "48 Hours Mystery"
correspondent Richard Schlesinger. "I played basketball for my church
and I remember, like you know, 'Mom, you don't have to come to the
game because, [she'd yell] 'Woo hoo!' It was so embarrassing. It was
just my mom."
Like most single mothers, Jennifer was a juggler,
managing her jobs as a parent and as a bond trader. She seemed
successful at both.
"She was the person who absolutely did it all,"
Tobey explained. "She made sure that life was as good as it could be."
Noura said, "I didn't have any siblings, which
sometimes makes you a little bit more spoiled but..."
"Were you a little spoiled?" Schlesinger asked.
"A little bit," she conceded. "I wouldn't say
[spoiled rotten]," she laughed. "Big birthday parties, you know,
themes, mom dressing up..."
"You smile when you talk about her," Schlesinger
observed. "You have good memories?" "Uh huh," Noura replied.
Noura has a few too many memories after seeing her
mother the night she was murdered.
"There was blood everywhere. I guess that's
basically the thing that sticks with me," she recalled, tears
streaming down her face. "I guess the only thing that was on my mind
was that I needed help."
Noura ran to a neighbor for help and then made a
frantic call to 911:
911: Fire Department. What's the problem?
Tell me exactly what happened.
Noura Jackson: Someone broke into my house!
My mom is bleeding!
911: Did you see what happened?
Noura Jackson: No! No, I just got home.
911: Is she breathing?
Noura Jackson: No! She' not breathing, she's
not breathing, she' not breathing... I need an ambulance. I need an
ambulance right now!
911: We're getting an ambulance on the line,
don't hang up.
Police raced to the Jackson home and Sgt. Tim
Helldorfer was one of the first to go inside. And that's where he
found Jennifer Jackson - naked, bloody and dead.
"I'll always remember this case... just because of
how savage it was," he told Schlesinger. "But she was just riddled
Jennifer's body was lying at the foot of the bed.
"This was absolutely, no doubt, a very violent scene. The blood cast
off all over the sheets... It was a bloody scene," Sgt. Helldorfer
A coroner found no evidence of a sexual attack, but
said Jennifer had been stabbed more than 50 times.
"It goes into what we would categorize as rage
killing," Helldorfer explained.
Whoever killed Jennifer Jackson put a wicker basket
over her head. It sounds strange, but Helldorfer said he'd seen that
kind of thing before. When asked who puts a basket over somebody's
face, Helldorfer replied, "Somebody who doesn't want to look at the
face; somebody who is close to the victim."
"[A] stranger wouldn't do that," he continued.
There was other evidence that the killer knew
Jennifer - broken glass from a door between the kitchen and the
garage. At first glance, Helldorfer said it could have been the way an
intruder broke into the house. "It was a three-panel door with windows
going horizontal. And the middle window was broken out," he explained.
But Helldorfer noticed something about that door
didn't look right.
"If you wanted to break into the kitchen through
the door, the obvious point would be right down here where the knob
and the lock is," he said pointing to its location. "Up here makes no
A second look revealed a second lock much closer to
the broken pane. Helldorfer said it was a hidden hinge lock on the
door frame that you couldn't see it from the outside. He said that's
important because "somebody had to know this lock was here."
What's more, all the outside doors leading into the
garage were locked.
Helldorfer said someone could not have gotten to
that door in the kitchen from the outside. "Absolutely not. The doors
were locked. The exterior doors were locked. There was just no way
Helldorfer continued, "And it looked to me it was
staged. That was the first thing I thought. 'This looks staged.'"
Police were still in the house when news of
Jennifer's murder spread to family and friends, including Renea
McMillan. "I pretty much sat on the floor and cried so hard that I
mean, I can barely remember," she said.
"I fell to my knees. It was horrible," Tobey added.
"Who would want to kill her?"
Ansley Larsson got to know Jennifer when their kids
started dating. She thought she had the answer right away.
"The truth is, the first thing I thought of was
him," Larsson said of Mark Irvin, a Methodist minister who Jennifer
dated around the time of her murder. "There seems to be a seething,
like a real underlying anger with him that he appears to be a very
Memphis detectives Lt. Mark Miller and Sgt. W.D.
Merritt found out that Irvin had called Jennifer the night of her
When asked if they liked Irvin as a suspect, Lt.
Miller replied, "I think the common thought was, 'Man, this guy likes
to talk a lot.'"
"He just kept coming back. He just kept calling..."
Miller told Schlesinger. "You can look at this two ways. Either its
honest interest, concern... or he did it and he wants to know what we
Irvin had an alibi of sorts. He told police he was
asleep at the time of the murder - at his house in Jackson, Tenn., 90
minutes away from Jennifer's home.
"If you're asleep you're asleep. If you're at home
by yourself, alone, how can that be proven or disproven?" Merritt
Police in Jackson interviewed Irvin and found no
evidence implicating him in Jennifer's murder.
"You keep him on the back burner and, and keep
going forward with the case," said Miller.
And by now, police already had another suspect. If
they're right, this crime may be even more unspeakable than it first
"Everything pointed towards her," said Merritt.
There was one person whose behavior seemed strange
to them right from the start and someone who happened to have a cut on
her left hand: Noura Jackson, Jennifer's 18-year-old daughter.
Hours after the discovery of Jennifer Jackson's
bloody body, police started wondering about her daughter, Noura, and
exactly how she injured her left hand.
Sergeant Connie Justice was the first officer to
interview Noura. Noura told her she cut her hand at a community
festival the night before the murder. The back of her hand was covered
with a piece of white medical tape.
When asked if Justice noticed any blood on the
bandage, she replied, "It had not bled through, because all I saw was
the top of it and no, I did not see any actual blood."
"There were some broken beer bottles. And I slipped
and I fell. We had been drinking that night, slipped and fell and cut
it," Noura explained to Richard Schlesinger.
But to Lt. Mark Miller and Sergeant W.D. Merritt,
Noura's explanation only raised more questions. "How do you fall on a
bottle with the back of your hand?" they wondered. They said it didn't
But it wasn't just the cut. Lieutenant Miller also
thought something was odd about the way Noura was dressed early that
"She had on a long sleeved shirt, which seemed kind
of strange," Lt. Miller observed, "because June in Memphis isn't
exactly a cool month."
Miller wondered if Noura was trying to conceal that
"I was in long sleeves a lot. Even on the beach,
sometimes I'd be in long sleeves," Noura told Schlesinger, speaking
quickly. "You might see someone in a bikini or a t-shirt and I might
have something that was long sleeve. It's just the way I dressed."
Memphis police started asking Noura's neighbors and
friends about her relationship with her mother. And that's when Sgt.
Tim Helldorfer started hearing about the fights.
"Noura and her mother had problems," Helldorfer
explained. "Noura wanted to be an adult, on her own. And Jennifer was
trying to straighten her out."
And just hours before Jennifer was killed, one of
Noura's friends said she heard her say, "My mom's a bitch and needs to
go to hell."
"I heard a lot of concern from Jennifer about 'I
don't know what to do,'" said Susan Tobey. She said Jennifer had
confided in her, "'She's not going to school and I don't know what
else to do.' It was a mother who was absolutely frustrated."
But Tobey said Jennifer was reluctant to discipline
"I think there's a certain amount of guilt that
comes with being a single parent. And it causes you, maybe, to be a
little easier on children than you might ordinarily be," she said.
But in the months leading up to the murder, Tobey
said Jennifer had finally decided to crack down on Noura. To
detectives, that sounded a lot like a possible motive for a teenager
used to having her way.
"She didn't want to be reined in. She wanted her
freedom," Helldorfer said.
What teenager doesn't want freedom? And what
teenager hasn't fought with or even cursed a parent? It happens all
the time. But police thought this became much more; they thought this
was a case of matricide - the murder of a mother by her own child.
Noura's activities the night of the murder just
added to their suspicions. Police believe Jennifer Jackson was killed
in her home between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Noura's friends said they last
saw her at a party around midnight. So where was she later?
"I don't think to this day we know exactly what she
did," Merritt said.
What little they do know came from Noura's
statement to Sgt. Connie Justice.
"Well, she said she purchased some cigarettes. She
said she rode around," Sgt. Justice said.
But there was one stop Noura failed to mention to
police. "She went to a Walgreens and purchased some medical care
products," Justice said.
Police learned about her trip to Walgreens when
they found a bag filled with first aid products in Noura's car.
"Bandages, peroxide, things you would use to clean up a cut," Merritt
After the bag was found, Sgt. Merritt took it to a
nearby Walgreens to check the sales records.
"I asked the manager if we could review her video
surveillance system. Low and behold, here comes Noura walking into
Walgreens," he said.
Noura admitted she bought those things to treat the
cut she said she got the night before the murder. But police thought
Noura was behaving as though the cut was fresh.
"She asked for a paper towel to dab her bleeding
wound," Justice said. Noura can be seen on the store video taking the
paper towel from the clerk.
"Did you think in your mind, 'Bingo? Gotcha?'"
Schlesinger asked Merritt. "I knew it was a very important piece of
evidence," he replied.
Police also examined Noura's cell phone records and
noticed a pattern they thought was suspicious. Noura seemed to live on
her phone. But that night, between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., there was
"That cell phone was nonstop except for a limited
time frame, which we feel was when the murder took place," said
When asked what he thought happened, Helldorfer
said, "I think they had a confrontation, verbally, earlier, and that
was it... She just went crazy. Not losing her mind, but that rage, you
know, it just kicked in."
Detectives believe by now, Noura, having just
committed a savage murder, coldly and methodically started cleaning up
and concocting her cover up.
"I'm sure there was serious panic," Helldorfer
said. "She's gotta figure out what to do now."
By 3 a.m., Noura was on the phone again calling
friends. She also drove to a friend's house. "She had an alibi. She
had somebody who'd seen her," Helldorfer said.
Helldorfer believes Noura then headed back home,
ran to her neighbor and called 911.
And in the process, Helldorfer said she may have
dropped one more clue. "The 911 call taker asked Noura, 'Has your
mother been shot?' She says, 'No.'"
"How's she gonna know that?" Helldorfer said. "I
don't think the average person, under those bloody conditions, could
tell whether or not those were knife wounds or gunshot wounds. She was
adamant. It was, 'No.'"
Detectives now have their theory that Noura is the
killer. But there's one big problem: there was no DNA, blood or
fingerprints from Noura at the crime scene.
There was DNA from someone else at the crime
"We know there was some unknown DNA that was on a
bed sheet," Merritt said.
"It could have been skin. It could have been
sweat," added Miller.
The investigators were never able to find out whose
DNA it was. The only thing they could say for sure was that it wasn't
Jennifer's or Noura's.
"I think we know who did it," Noura said. "We just
have to find them."
"I've never had a case where a daughter killed her
mother...18-years-old. You don't want to think that, but who else is
there?" said Sgt. Tim Helldorfer of the Memphis Police Department.
Even though police have almost no scientific
evidence against her, they are convinced Noura hated her mother,
snapped that night and killed her in a fit of rage.
"I think the biggest concern everybody had was we
don't have the eyewitness. We don't have the smoking gun and we didn't
have the DNA," Sgt. Helldorfer said. "But what we had was a lot better
than what we didn't have."
Three-and-a-half months after Jennifer Jackson was
stabbed to death in her bedroom, police finally arrested her daughter
and charged her with first-degree murder.
"My grief was interrupted because you get arrested
and you have your back up against the wall and you're constantly
having, y'know, to explain 'I didn't do this, I didn't do this,'"
Noura told Richard Schlesinger. "You don't have time to grieve. You
have to defend yourself."
Noura insisted that police have her relationship
with her mother all wrong.
"There was a good rapport there," she said. "I felt
comfortable with allowing my mom to know whatever was going on in my
life. We didn't have any secrets and it was a two-way street."
Noura's supporters, mothers who knew Jennifer as
well, described her as a devoted, loving daughter.
"There's no way that Noura Jackson could have done
that to anybody. And never to her mother! She loved her mother," said
Ansley Larsson. "...I don't know a whole lot of 16- year-olds that
will cancel their plans to hang out with their mother. 'Mom needs me.'
Woosh," Larsson motioned with her hand, "There'd she go."
Dana Frederick's daughter was Noura's best friend.
Frederick said Noura practically lived with her.
"Had there been a darker side to Noura, I would
have picked up on it," she explained. "Something would have raised a
red flag to me and there were no red flags, ever."
But Noura doesn't just need good friends anymore,
she needed a good lawyer. Memphis defense attorney Valerie Corder took
her case for free.
"Ms. Jackson wasn't shot. Ms. Jackson was stabbed
over 50 times," Corder explained. "It is very difficult to believe
that her teenage daughter could have wanted her dead, much less have
committed the crime."
Corder will argue that the very evidence police
said proves Noura is a killer may actually prove she is not -
especially a photo of Noura's cut.
"What was significant in my opinion about that
photograph is the pristine nails," Corder told Schlesinger. "My
client's nails were not bloody. They were not torn. They were not
chipped. They looked as if she had been handling paper instead of
committing a brutal crime."
Corder believes other pictures the police took
within days of the murder might also prove that Noura is innocent.
"She's photographed from head to toe and there are no injuries. There
are no bruises... It doesn't appear that she was in hand-to-hand
"If this was such a violent struggle, wouldn't you
have expected Noura to have more wounds on her?" Schlesinger asked
"No, because Noura had the weapon and she was the
offender," he replied. "Jennifer was totally defensive, trying to
block. She wasn't trying to attack."
But Corder said that doesn't explain away the cops'
big problem: why they didn't find any blood or DNA evidence linking
Noura to the crime.
"So rarely is a teenager accused of such a horrific
crime with such a paltry amount of evidence," she noted.
"DNA evidence? I mean, that speaks for itself to
me," Noura told Schlesinger.
"That your DNA wasn't found there?" he asked.
"Not only was my DNA not found there, but someone
Remember, police confirmed that DNA found on
Jennifer's bed sheets was not Noura's, but they were never able to
"That DNA could have been on the sheets for any
length of time," Det. Miller said.
"It's a nagging question," Schlesinger said. "Oh,
absolutely," Merritt agreed.
Police never found the murder weapon or the bloody
clothes Noura would have been wearing if she did this. But they did
find drops of Jennifer's blood on the front step.
"Obviously, Noura had some type of item or
something that was dripping as she was carrying it from the home,"
Police think Noura then dumped the evidence
somewhere away from the house.
"Well, if that were true, then one would expect to
find some of Noura's blood or some of Jennifer's blood in that car
also," Corder said. "There was no blood in the vehicle."
And there's more evidence that Corder said raises
serious doubt about Noura's guilt. When Jennifer's body was found on
the floor in her bedroom, she was clutching some strands of hair in
her hand. A preliminary examination showed the hair might be
Jennifer's, but did not appear to be Noura's.
Police were so confident in their case they didn't
do any further tests on the hair, which Corder argued, could very well
be the killer's. "We do not know whose hair it was," she said.
"Should we have tested the hair? Hindsight being
20/20, yeah we probably could have," Merritt said.
"But, gee whiz - it was in her hand," Schlesinger
pointed out. "Like he said, hindsight's 20/20," Miller replied.
"When the scientific evidence excluded Noura
Jackson as the assailant, it was ignored," Corder said.
Of course, one of the most incriminating bits of
evidence police did find was that videotape of Noura's visit to
"If she had felt guilty about doing it, would she
have gone to a Walgreens in her neighborhood? Where she knows they're
videotaping? Corder asked.
And what's more, police found the Walgreens bag
with the first aid products in plain sight in Noura's car. Corder
continued, "Would she have left the bag in her car?"
"Maybe she forgot about it. Maybe she meant to
throw it away. Maybe she didn't think we would find out," Merritt
Noura's supporters also couldn't believe police
dismissed what could be an obvious answer to the question about who
killed Jennifer. Noura's father had been killed less than a
year-and-a-half earlier. What if whoever had murdered him had struck
"Nobody was really working on solving what happened
to Nazmi," according to Dana Frederick.
Nazmi Hassanieh and Jennifer had divorced shortly
after Noura was born. Police thought he might be involved in
prostitution and/or drug trafficking.
"He did some things that if we had known about it,
he would have been arrested," Helldorfer said.
Nazmi was shot dead in the convenience store he
owned in a rough part of town. He was shot just out of range of the
security camera. Police called it an assassination.
"From watching the videotape of the murder, this
was not a robbery. The person that murdered him was looking for
something specifically in his office," Frederick said.
Police never caught the killer. After Nazmi's
murder, Jennifer took control of his estate.
Her friend, Renea McMillan, wondered if Jennifer
may have unwittingly become a target of Nazmi's enemies. "Who's to say
that he didn't owe somebody money and they felt that Jennifer may have
the money that they're looking for?"
According to Merritt, "We looked over the case and
read over the case but could not make any type of connection."
"I think [the] Memphis Police Department was
feeling the heat. I think they wanted a quick fix," Frederick said.
"Noura was a scapegoat. It's just like a witch hunt. They turned her
into a witch."
Almost four years after her mother, Jennifer, was
murdered, Noura Jackson's trial was finally under way.
"Well, I know I don't really know what happened. I
wasn't there," Noura told Richard Schlesinger. She has always denied
stabbing her mother to death.
Noura, 21, faced a first-degree murder charge and
the possibility of life in a penitentiary.
Prosecutor Amy Weirich had never tried a case of
matricide before. "I have been told that it is very rare," she told
Schlesinger. In fact it couldn't be rarer. Less than 2 percent of all
the murders in America are matricides - a child killing their mother -
and of those, just a fraction are committed by daughters.
Weirich had to convince jurors that this was one of
those all-but-unheard-of cases.
But if the jury's looking for much forensic
evidence against Noura, Weirich was in a lot of trouble. A DNA expert
called by the prosecution testified that Noura's blood and DNA was not
found at the crime scene. Defense lawyer, Valerie Corder, questioned
Valerie Corder: DNA evidence is essential to
DNA Expert Qadiayyah Debman: Yes it is.
Corder: Within all the items that you
tested, the pillows...the pillow cases... the sheets...the light
switch, on none of those items did you find Noura Jackson's blood or
DNA of any kind.
Debman: No I did not.
"The state's theory was never, 'Let's draw
conclusions from the unalterable scientific facts. Let's construct a
case based upon a teenager's behavior,'" Corder told Schlesinger.
As the state presented its case, Noura sat quietly
alone in court. Not one member of her family stood by her side.
In fact, Cindy Eidson, Jennifer Jackson's sister
and one of Noura's aunts, was a witness for the prosecution.
"I had a lot of conversations with Jennifer and the
problems that she was having..." Eidson told the court.
She testified that Jennifer and Noura had a heated
argument about Noura's drug use and party lifestyle just one week
before the murder.
"Jennifer said, 'You can either go to boarding
school or move out. I'm sick of it. You're 18 years old and you're
still in 11th grade, and partying all the time, and you've got - and
I've just had it,'" Eidson said.
Noura's uncle testified that right before the
murder Noura seemed unusually interested in what she might inherit if
"Jennifer got on the subject about having Noura
well taken care of if something happened to her that Noura was on the
life insurance policy," Eric Sherwood told the court. When asked by
the prosecution how the conversation came up, Sherwood said, "Noura
asked Jennifer how it all worked."
"How convenient for me to be asking about life
insurance a week before my mother's murder," Noura told Schlesinger.
"I don't know."
"Are you calling your uncle a liar?" Schlesinger
"Yes. And that's hard to do because," she said with
a pause, "Umm, I love him."
Her friends weren't doing Noura much good either.
Kirby McDonald was the teen who said she overheard Noura curse her
mother at a party just hours before the murder.
"Noura said, 'My Mom's a bitch and she needs to go
to hell,'" McDonald testified.
Noura told police that she drove around after that
party and didn't get home until 5 a.m. But prosecutors said phone
records show Noura was in her home around the time of the murder.
Noura's friend, Clark Schifani, testified that at
about 1 a.m., he got a call from the Jackson's house phone. Seconds
later, he got another call - this time from Noura's cell phone.
"I think she accidentally picked up the house phone
and realized 'Hey, I'm not supposed to be here. Let's hang this up.'
And then turned right back around and called him from her cell phone,"
Sgt. Miller explained.
"That's odd," Schlesinger said.
"It's odd for someone that's claiming they were
never at home," Merritt asserted.
But most of the prosecution's case is based on what
Noura did after the murder; like that early morning trip to Walgreens.
"Why is she at Walgreen's buying liquid bandages
and hydrogen peroxide at 10 after four in the morning? And why is she
not telling anybody about it?" Amy Weirich said.
Joe Cocke lived across the street. He said Noura
woke him at 5 a.m. after the murder.
"She said 'My mom, my mom. Somebody's breaking into
my house!' I reached up in my closet and grabbed my pistol," he
Cocke said he ran with Noura back to her house.
"And Noura went in front of me... she went in right in front of me and
I found that odd because somebody was breaking into this house."
Sergeant Tim Helldorfer thought that was odd, too.
"If someone's in the house, why would you run back in? Let the man
with the gun go in first. She led the way."
In the early hours of the investigation, Jennifer's
friend, Genevieve Dix, noticed that Noura was acting strangely.
"I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her. And
she just stood there," Dix testified. "She had her sweatshirt pulled
down to her knuckles."
Prosecutors argue that Noura was trying to cover up
that cut on her hand.
"And every time anybody's around her, for the days
later, she's wearing long sleeves and its 600 degrees outside, and
she's hiding it. Why?" Weirich wondered.
Remember, Noura said she got that cut the day
before the stabbing, but several of her friends saw her at that party
just hours before the murder.
When asked in court if they recalled seeing a cut
or bandage on her hands that night, they replied "No."
Witnesses said as time went on, Noura told several
different stories about how she cut her hand.
"She said she cut it on a beer bottle at the
Italian Fest," said Caroline Giovanetti.
"She told me that her cat was stuck in the garage
and she cut it trying to get the cat out of the garage," Regina Hunt
"She said, 'Grace, any doctor would tell you it was
a burn. I burned it cooking macaroni and cheese,'" Grace France
testified."Did you tell other people different stories about how you
cut your hand?" Schlesinger asked Noura. "No. What I told the police
is what happened," she said.
"Forensic evidence doesn't lie. None of Noura's DNA
is at the scene," Noura's defense attorney, Valerie Corder told the
court. Corder challenged almost every detail of the state's case,
including how investigators handled the hair found in Jennifer's
Valerie Corder: And did you analyze the
loose hair from the right hand?
DNA Expert Qadiayyah Debman: No I did not.
Corder: Did you analyze the hair from the
left hand? Debman: No I did not.
And Corder hammered Crime Scene Investigator David
Payment for almost two days, suggesting he overlooked evidence
pointing to someone else.
Valerie Corder: What is that in the entry
hall? It's a cat isn't it? David Payment: Oh, yes it is.
Corder: So a cat walked around the crime scene while you were
in charge of it? Payment: Ah, yes ma'am... Corder: So
the cat may have left trace evidence?
Payment: The cat may have digested evidence. Corder clearly
wanted the jury to conclude that the police bungled the investigation
right from the start. And now Valerie Corder was about to question
Jennifer's ex-boyfriend, whose relationship with Jennifer might have
been just as volatile as Noura's.
As Noura Jackson's murder trial wound down,
Jennifer's on-again off-again boyfriend, Pastor Mark Irvin, took the
"He was the most controlling, manipulative person
that I have ever met in my whole entire life. And he scared me," Noura
But in a move that surprised some, it was the
prosecutor who called Irvin, hoping to dispel any suspicions about his
involvement in Jennifer's murder.
Amy Weirich: During this point, were you
Mark Irvin: We were.
Prosecutor: Had it been a violent break up?
Irvin: Not in any way. And that's the truth.
Irvin admitted that on the night of the murder, he
called Jennifer. But he claimed he was at home, 90 minutes away.
"Before I even possibly even heard it ring I just
said, 'It's too late to call.'" So he said he hung up and went to
"Mr. Irvin said that he was asleep until 7 a.m. in
the morning. There's no verification of that," Corder tells Richard
When asked if she thinks he's a viable suspect,
Corder replied, "I think he was an unusual man. Everyone agrees that
Jennifer's relationship with him was quite turbulent."
On cross examination, Corder tried to make what she
could out of the problems with the relationship. But in the end,
nothing came out at trial that linked Mark Irvin to Jennifer Jackson's
"Nobody had any reason to believe that he was
responsible for this," said Weirich.
After nine days, the prosecution rested. Noura
never testified and Valerie Corder believed the state's case was so
weak, she decided to rest without calling any witnesses. There was
never any testimony about the murder of Noura's father.
"...If the state hasn't met their burden of proof
of proving this is the crime that was committed and this is the person
that committed it, there is no defense to put be on..." Corder
For Noura, everything was now riding on Corder's
:The brutal ugly truth is this was a brutal, ugly
crime and a brutal, ugly, incompetent investigation," Corder told
jurors. "Let's put everything on this side of the courtroom that does
not indicate Noura Jackson killed her mother.
"Basket, pillow, comforter: none of Noura Jackson's
blood. Stepstool, bag, another pillow... bottom sheet, hoodie: none of
Noura Jackson's blood," she continued.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we ask you to return the
only verdict the real evidence, the forensic scientific evidence
justifies and that's not guilty of any charge."
But Amy Weirich had the last word and she reminded
the jury of that one burning question from the night of the murder
that remains unanswered:
"Just tell us where you were!" Weirich yelled at
Noura. "That's all we're asking, Noura!"
Weirich tried to convince the jury one last time
that, despite the lack of forensic evidence, this was one of the
rarest of murders - that a daughter stabbed her mother to death.
"And there's one picture that keeps playing over
and over and over in your head. You know the picture we're talking
about it," Weirich told jurors. "It's the picture of an 18-year-old
enraged, out of control Noura Jackson snapping. It is the perfect
storm that is brewed. It is the volcano that has erupted. It is the
spring that has sprung."
As the jury filed out, a scared Noura knew what was
So who is Noura Jackson? Is she an innocent girl or
a savage killer capable of stabbing her own mother to death and then
lying about it?
It took nine hours for the jury to decide. They
found Noura guilty of second-degree murder.
As hard as it has been for them, it was the word
Jennifer's family had waited to hear and the one Noura dreaded.
Memphis police were hoping for first degree.
Sergeant Tim Helldorfer voiced his disappointment. "I thought it was a
first-degree murder. I think one or two just couldn't sentence an
18-year-old kid to jail for the rest of her life."
To this day, Noura insists she is innocent.
"In the morning when I wake up in a cell. and you
have to remind yourself why you're here...my mother's dead. You can't
help but relive it every morning when you wake up," she said.
"I can't even begin to imagine how anybody could
hate another human being to that level," Weirich said. "It's just one
of the horrible mysteries of the world."
Of course, almost all murders leave questions in
their wake. But this one, a daughter convicted of matricide, has left
even more frightening ones.
I shutter to imagine what that would be like, to
know that your attacker might well have been your daughter," Tobey
said. "I cannot imagine what that did to her spirit."
But for now, there are no answers. There's only
"We lost our friend. She lost her mother," Tobey
continued. "Everyone lost."
Noura Jackson was sentenced to 20 years in
prison. She will be 39 when released; the same age as her mother when
she was murdered.