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Man accused in rape, murder of girl in 1984 goes on trial

James Leon Jackson accused of raping, killing 10-year-old Tammy Welch

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Opening statements were underway Wednesday in the trial of a 66-year-old man accused in the 1984 murder of 10-year-old Tammy Welch.

James Jackson, who lived next door to Tammy's family, was a suspect from the beginning but was not arrested and charged until 2013, after the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said DNA evidence linked him to Tammy's death.

Tammy, the daughter of a sailor who was away on deployment, was raped and killed at her apartment complex on 103rd Street the same day her family was preparing to move out of their apartment and into Navy housing.

Jackson was interviewed the day Tammy was killed and again the next month but no arrest was made. Tammy's case was reopened in 1999, and Jackson was interviewed again in 2002, when he provided a DNA sample.

A partial DNA profile was obtained from Tammy's sexual assault kit in 2012, and it was matched to Jackson's DNA in 2013, police said.

The state is seeking the death penalty. During a final pretrial hearing last week, the defense once again tried to block the prosecution from seeking the death penalty, but the motion was denied again by Circuit Judge James Daniel.

Jackson's lawyers had filed several motions to spare him from the death penalty if convicted, including an argument that he’s in deteriorating health.

A jury was empaneled Wednesday morning after two and a half days of jury selection, during which a pool of 84 potential jurors were interviewed.

Tammy's family now lives out of state and her father has retired from the Navy.


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