Judge: Man accused in rape, murder of 10-year-old competent for trial

James Leon Jackson charged in death of Tammy Welch in 1984

By Frank Powers - Assignment manager, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 66-year-old Jacksonville man accused of raping and strangling a 10-year-old girl in 1984 has been ruled competent to stand trial.

James Leon Jackson, who is charged in the murder of Tammy Welch, could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

Jackson was arrested in February 2013 after investigators said evidence at the scene that was retested after the case was reopened in 1999 matched Jackson's DNA.

Jackson, who was Tammy's next-door neighbor, has maintained that he was asleep in his apartment when the girl was killed.

Jackson’s attorneys requested a psychiatric evaluation, and the judge in the case heard this week from Dr. Steven Bloomfield, who has examined Jackson six times since 2015. 

Bloomfield wrote in his report that while Jackson has memory issues, he was lucid when asked if he understands the gravity of the charges against him. He said he believes Jackson will be able to assist in his own defense.

Bloomfield said Jackson tires easily and accommodations will have to be made for him during the trial, which was rescheduled for Sept. 24. 

Child murdered

Tammy, the daughter of a sailor who was on deployment, was last seen Aug. 27, 1984, playing with her sister in the courtyard of the Yorktown Apartment complex on 103rd Street.

The sister went inside, leaving Tammy alone. When she returned, Tammy was nowhere to be found.

Her body was found in the courtyard after a search.

FROM THE VAULT: Channel 4 report on Tammy Welch's murder in 1984

An autopsy at the time found the girl had been sexually assaulted and strangled. Despite extensive investigation at the time, the case remained unsolved and was reopened in 1999 by cold case units with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

A partial DNA profile found on an item retested with modern DNA analysis equipment in late 2012 matched Jackson, police said.

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