The Jackson family returned home to Apple Grove, Virginia, on a January night in 1959. Carroll Jackson, a husky truck driver, was 29-years old at the time. His wife Mildred rode in the passenger seat. Also in the car were four-year-old daughter Susan Ann, and baby Janet, who was 17 months old. On this night, they would encounter a killer some called, “The Beast.”
Loved ones alerted authorities when they never made it home. National alarm developed when their car was found abandoned by the side of the road. The entire family just disappeared. The only clue found was one of the girls’ dolls had been left behind.
No trace was found for months. In March, the bodies were finally discovered. The bodies of Carroll and Janet were first found in a heap of brush and debris outside Fredericksburg, Virginia. Carroll had been shot and bludgeoned. His body had fallen atop Janet. The baby girl had smothered beneath him.
Their discovery partially answered the mystery, but it wasn’t until 18 days later that the other victims were found. Mildred and Susan were in a shallow grave outside Annapolis, Maryland. They had been beaten and violated and the only structure nearby was a cinderblock shack.
The authorities were helpless without further evidence. Dr. F. Regis Riesenman, a physician at St. Elizabeth’s hospital in Washington, DC, was outraged. He was close to the case and grew desperate to stop this monster. He decided to bring in noted psychic Peter Hurkos. Hurkos was a Dutch painter by profession, but suffered a serious fall from a ladder in 1941. He regained consciousness, but that wasn’t all he gained. He now had several intriguing skills.
Hurkos was often criticized and ridiculed for his capabilities, but more often than not, they were pretty accurate. He solved 27 murders in over 16 countries by 1969. Hurkos usually described how the victims were found, and his description of the killer was accurate.
Hurkos was taken to the scene where the bodies were and had an image of the killer within 2 hours. Hurkos said the man who killed the Jackson family had been involved with other murders. He claimed the killer had a count of nine victims. He said the man who committed the acts was sane and coherent of what he did. Hurkos said that particular case was very different from the cases he was normally involved with. He was right.
Unfortunately, no gifts are perfect. He drew a picture of where the killer lived and police quickly drove to interview the man living there. He turned out to be a harmless trash collector. He was pursued as a suspect for some time. A sawmill worker confessed to the crimes in 1969, but later recanted.
In Search of the Beast
It seemed the case was impossible. Suddenly, things changed. A man emerged who lived in Norfolk, Virginia. He was suspicious of an acquaintance, a man named Melvin Rees. The informant said he’d known Rees for sometime, and recently the young musician had stated that murder could be acceptable.
The FBI began pursuit of the young musician and, suddenly, many things began to fall into place. Rees had been a popular student at the University of Maryland. He dropped out to pursue a career in music. At that time, he’d been a jazz musician in Washington, DC.
Melvin Rees also had a record. He was arrested in 1955, after he attempted to force a 36-year-old woman into his car. The victim decided against pressing charges and it was eventually forgotten.
Margaret Harold and her boyfriend were driving on a rural Annapolis road, on June 26, 1957. A man in a green Chrysler came up behind them and forced them off the road. He pulled a gun on the couple, and made them get out of their car. He demanded cigarettes and money. Harold was driving at the time. They refused and Rees shot her in the face. Her boyfriend fled. He ran for sometime, until he came to an old farmhouse. He called the police.
When the authorities returned to the scene, Margaret’s clothes had been removed and she had been violated. They searched the area for a suspect, but couldn’t find any evidence to help them locate the killer. They found a small, cinderblock building nearby. It was filled with violent pornography, female autopsy pictures, photos of female corpses, and of bound women. Ironically, it was said to be the same building near where the bodies of Mildred and Susan Jackson were found in 1959.
Another couple came forward to detectives shortly after the Jackson case began. They were out for a drive on the evening the Jackson family disappeared. A man came up behind them in an old blue Chevrolet. He honked and flashed lights until they pulled over. He stepped out to approach their car, but they sensed something was terribly wrong. The couple sped off and left the man standing.
The information and evidence did no good. By the time authorities realized Rees was the best suspect, he’d fled the state. It seemed like Rees had gotten away with his crimes, but his freedom was ending. A mysterious letter arrived some time after. It stated Rees had fled to Hyattsville, Arkansas.
Rees was captured and placed on trial. He was convicted of murdering 5 people, and later confessed two 2 more. Authorities believed he had actually killed 4 others. Like many serial killers, Rees left documentation on his activities. Police found what was called a “murder journal,” that discussed his crimes.
He was not executed in 1961, despite a number of sources that say otherwise. He was formally given psychiatric testing in 1966. His sentence was converted to life in 1972. He died from a heart attack in 1995.
Apparently, Rees felt that murder was acceptable, so long as it wasn’t his own.