The unsolved mystery of 10-year-old Tammy Welch is finally coming to light.
In 1984, the Welch family was moving to a new house on a nearby naval base, as their father, a U.S. Navy serviceman, was deployed at sea. Tammy Welch, was allowed to stay home from school with her older brother and little sister. Tammy and her 8-year-old sister, Jennifer, went out to play in the apartment complex courtyard.
When the two girls were playing, they got into an argument, and Jennifer ran back into the apartment. A half-hour later, the girls’ mother told Jennifer to go get Tammy.
But there was no Tammy outside. The courtyard was empty. Finally, Jennifer spotted Tammy’s pink flip-flops. Then, she saw her sister, shorts stained with blood.
As Jennifer goes on to testify decades later, she was “so terrified by the sight that she ripped a clump of her own hair from her head.”
Authorities determined that Tammy had been sexually assaulted and strangled. Despite a full-court press from police, neighbors and witnesses failed to point toward the murderer.
Tammy’s case went unsolved until the 2010s, when a $500,000 federal grant allowed the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to retest old forensic evidence using more up-to-date scientific techniques.
They then discovered Tammy’s killer had been living right next door at the time of her murder.
The 66-year-old killer was proven, through DNA evidence, to be James Leon Jackson.
“Without that grant, and without the money to work this cold case, it could have gone unsolved for another 28 years,” Chief of Detectives Tom Hackney said.
“After five years of legal delays, including a lengthy battle over whether the five-time felon was mentally competent to face trial, Tammy’s alleged killer faced a jury this week on charges of first-degree murder, capital sexual battery and tampering with evidence.”
While DNA had linked Jackson to the murder, they also have incriminating comments Jackson allegedly made about the murder to his cellmate.
But more strangely, prosecutors told the court that while he was in custody waiting for trial, Jackson got “Tammy Welch 1984” tattooed on his back.
This confession, written in ink, is all the proof we need.
Jackson claims that the tattoo was a jailhouse prank and that he had nothing to do with the murder.
“It was a little girl,” Jackson testified. “I wouldn’t kill no little girl.”
Closing arguments are expected to start on Friday.