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Michael Wayne JACKSON





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Former mental patient - Three-state crime spree
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: September 1986
Date of birth: 1945
Victims profile: Thomas E. Gahl (his probation officer) / A grocer / A motorist
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Indiana/Missouri/Kentucky, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself after he was cornered by the police in an abandoned barn on October 2, 1986

Trapped in barn, man in crime spree kills himself

The New York Times

October 4, 1986

Michael Wayne Jackson, the suspect in a three-state crime spree that set off a widespread manhunt, killed himself late Thursday night after he was cornered by the police in an abandoned barn.

''We can finally unload our shotguns,'' Nelson Paul, a 28-year-old resident, said as he stood outside a police command center early today. ''It's like having a load of bricks lifted from your shoulders.''

Mr. Jackson, a 41-year-old former mental patient, shot himself in the head with the same shotgun he used throughout the rampage that began Sept. 22 and left three people dead, said Hal Helterhoff, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's office in nearby St. Louis.

Mr. Jackson, still bearded and still clad in the same clothes he was wearing when he was last seen, was positively identified through fingerprints, the official said. Police Did Not Shoot Suspect

Mr. Jackson's body was taken to St. Louis County Hospital for an autopsy, said Sgt. Walter Ryan of the Missouri Highway Patrol. Sergeant Ryan said a preliminary investigation indicated that Mr. Jackson had not suffered an earlier gunshot wound, as the police had believed.

During the manhunt the police thought that Mr. Jackson had been wounded in a gun battle with two Wright City police officers Sept. 22 that left one officer wounded. But Sergeant Ryan said today that this was not the case.

The barn was less than a quarter of a mile from where Mr. Jackson was last seen after the shootout. Sergeant Ryan said Mr. Jackson apparently had not been too long in the barn, which was checked several times.

The crime spree terrorized Wright City, a town of 1,200 people in eastern Missouri near St. Louis, and residents armed themselves and locked their doors for the first time in years.

A Sense of Relief

On Thursday night, hundreds of people had gathered along the service road of Interstate 70, hoping for the end of the 11-day hunt.

Relief swept through the town today as word spread that Mr. Jackson, who had vowed not to be taken alive, was found dead.

''We're euphoric,'' said Sheila Cone, superintendent of the Wright City School District. ''It's like being released from a trap. There's an overwhelming sense of relief.''

Renda Bloebaum, a waitress at the 50's Cafe, said: ''It's been terrible around here, but now it's great. Everyone is just real happy that we can get back to living normal, that we won't have to deal with road blocks and all that, knowing that there's a maniac running around.''

Mr. Jackson was wanted for three slayings and a series of thefts and abductions across Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. He was accused of killing his probation officer, a grocer in Indianapolis and a motorist in Missouri. He was also accused of abducting five people and commandeering several vehicles.

Mr. Jackson, who had painted his face silver and black, had not been seen since he fled on foot into the woods west of Wright City after crashing a stolen Cadillac into a fence along Interstate 70 on Sept. 22. Notified About Hitchhiker

The police focused on the barn about 6:20 P.M. Thursday after officers received a report that a man matching Mr. Jackson's description was seen hitchhiking about 20 miles away earlier that day.

Four officers entered the barn about 6:30 P.M., said Mr. Helterhoff of the F.B.I. One of the officers hit the ground when he heard a muffled shotgun blast, and the others fled, he said. Two shots were fired by the police at the barn so the remaining officer could escape.

Unaware that Mr. Jackson had committed suicide, the police used a bullhorn to try to coax him out. The police brought in two helicopters with searchlights and threw eight tear gas canisters inside as they plotted how they would enter the barn. They discovered the body in the loft.


U.S. Probation Office

Southern District of Indiana

About Thomas E. Gahl

The United States Probation Office for the Southern District of Indiana has been dedicated to the memory of U.S. Probation Officer Thomas E. Gahl, who was the first U.S. Probation Officer killed in the line of duty by a parolee. Tom was killed on September 22, 1986, by Michael Wayne Jackson, who had a life-long history of mental illness and random acts of violence.  Being pursued after a lengthy crime spree, which included two other murders and several kidnappings, Jackson ended his own life.

Tom took the oath of office as a U.S. Probation Officer on March 14, 1975, after working in the Indiana State Penitentiary, Michigan City, and the U.S. Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Indiana.  He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps as a 1st Lieutenant.   He obtained a bachelor's degree from Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, and a master's degree from Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana.  During his 11 years as a U.S. Probation Officer, Tom was known as a fair, well-mannered professional who treated everyone equally.  He also enjoyed socializing with his colleagues at baseball games over a beer. 

Above all, Tom was a dedicated father and husband who enjoyed a full and contented family life with his wife, Nancy, and sons, Christopher and Nicholas.  By dedicating the U.S. Probation Office for the Southern District of Indiana to Thomas E. Gahl, we desire to perpetuate his memory -- his many significant contributions to the work of this office, his genial personality and exemplary character -- and to express again, in a more permanent way, our deep and lasting affection for him.


SEX: M RACE: W TYPE: N MOTIVE: PC-nonspecific

MO: Shot his probation officer and two other men.

DISPOSITION: Suicide by gunshot to avoid arrest, Oct. 2, 1986.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers



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