HOUSTON – Fifteen years ago, Kendrick Jackson was 3 years old when he was last seen at his father’s Houston apartment on April 7, 2006.
The missing child poster in his case has a heartbreaking detail for any parent who has dressed a child for bed: “When he was last seen, he was wearing a white t-shirt and pajama shorts with pictures of baseballs and footballs on them.”
If Kendrick had grown up, he would be 18 years old now. Fifteen years on, Kendrick hasn’t been seen and his body was never found, despite numerous searches.
More than 1,500 volunteers and law enforcement officers searched for weeks alongside Texas EquuSearch founder Tim Miller.
“I remember the Kendrick Jackson case like it was yesterday,” he said in an interview this week. “Helicopters, horses boats, sonar.”
The Jackson family moved to Houston from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many have since moved back to Louisiana.
Several aunts and Jackson’s grandmother spoke to KPRC 2 from New Orleans and Dallas on a conference call.
“We had so much joy with him, just in that little time, in three years,” said one of Jackson’s aunt. “We had some really, really good times before Katrina.”
“We had so many great memories,” said another, Naquea Jackson. “And the joy that we had with him those three years we cherish.”
“I think it’s still difficult to manage our feelings around it because we haven’t had closure,” said another aunt.
“Our faith keeps us going because we know that he’s in a better place,” Naquea Jackson said. “Not a day goes by that we don’t think about him. We think about him all the time. We can’t believe it’s been 15 years! It seems like it was just yesterday.”
A jury decided in 2011 that Kendrick’s father, Roderick Fountain, was guilty in his 3-year-old son’s 2006 disappearance. Fountain, who was 37 years old at the time, was convicted of felony murder. He was sentenced to life in prison on Oct. 27, 2011.
Kendrick’s mother, Keyanna Jackson, told the judge during Fountain’s trial that she’ll never forgive Fountain and all she’s ever wanted is an answer. One day, she said, she hopes Fountain finds it in himself to be a man and tell her where her baby is.
“I just wanted him to answer the question of why. That was it,” she said.
Prosecutors claimed in court proceedings in 2011 that Fountain beat Kendrick to death the day before he reported him missing.
“(Fountain) was the last person who had custody of him. Think about that. The last person who had him was the defendant. We know the person other than the defendant who last saw Kendrick Jackson alive heard the defendant beating him. We know while that was happening, Kendrick Jackson was crying and then suddenly stopped crying, which was out of character in the way he had behaved in past beatings he had received at the defendant’s hand,” prosecutor Connie Spence said in closing arguments during the trial.
The defense reminded the jury that Kendrick’s body has never been found.
“You have no proof that Kendrick Jackson is dead,” defense attorney Charles Brown said. “None. Period. End of story.”
Brown said the decision to send him to prison for life is a difficult one to accept.
“My client has never said that he did this, never confessed to this as far as I know,” said Brown.
A police detective from Louisiana testified that Fountain is the main suspect in the death of a 16-year-old boy who was shot multiple times in 2002. A charge, in that case, was dropped after the main witness recanted, but Fountain’s ex-wife told the jury that he confessed to her.
Several people testified in the trial that they saw Fountain hit and try to drown Kendrick.
Fountain was sentenced to 15 years in prison on felony possession of a firearm conviction shortly after Kendrick’s disappearance. Police said they found the weapon as part of the investigation into Kendrick’s disappearance.
Fountain told police in 2006 that his son left his apartment while he was doing laundry. Police believe Fountain killed Kendrick and then hid the boy’s body. Witnesses said they saw bruises on Kendrick’s body before he went missing, according to prosecutors.
Fountain has nine children. He was convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute in 1992 and robberies in 1994 and 1997.
Fountain remains in prison in Lovelady, Texas, about 35 miles north of Huntsville, Texas. You can read his offender history here. He is eligible for visitation, and eventually, for parole on June 22, 2039.
What do you remember most about this case? Let us know in the comments.