Jasmine Mills knew something was wrong. Ryan Jackson, her childhood sweetheart and the father of their baby due at the end of this month, wasn’t answering his cell phone on the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 12.
After an appointment at the obstetrician’s office, the couple, both 18, returned to the house they shared with her family in the 800 block of Seckel Court in Lansdowne at around 2 p.m.
The couple had lunch and then Jackson left around 3 p.m. “He said he was going to hang out with friends” and would be back "in a little while," Mills told Arbutus Patch.
When Mills hadn’t heard from him by dinner, she began to worry. According to Baltimore County police reports, Mills called Jackson’s cell phone repeatedly between 8 p.m. and midnight, and the calls went directly to voice mail every time.
“I knew something was wrong because he never not answered his phone,” she said. “He would always answer or call me right back.”
Mills spent the next two days looking for Jackson and posting flyers with his photo and a description of his tattoos. She searched the neighborhood of rented townhouses arranged in connected cul-de-sacs, where Jackson was known and liked.
Mills questioned Larry Horton, a neighbor and stepfather of Jackson’s friend. Horton and his wife, Angelena, were living with another man, Dale Crites, a block away on the 700 block of Rambo Court.
Horton’s story kept changing, Mills said. According to Mills, Horton at first said he saw Jackson standing in front of Horton's house talking with someone, but later said that Jackson ducked inside his house briefly to get out of the rain. He also told a third story that was inconsistent with the other two, Mills said.
“Everything brought us back to Rambo Court,” Mills said. “That’s the last place he was seen.”
According to Baltimore County police, Mills filed a missing person report at around 12:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14.
Later in the afternoon, Mills and her mother, Dorah Precht, walked to Rambo Court. As they approached, according to police, they saw Crites pull his green 1996 Buick into the parking lot in front of his residence.
Larry Horton exited the vehicle with a Bissell carpet cleaning machine that he took inside the house, according to police.
Angelena Horton, according to witnesses, was seen at the time wearing a hospital gown and had bandages on her arms.
Crites dropped off the Hortons and drove away, according to charging documents.
Precht said that she then asked Horton if he saw Jackson on Wednesday afternoon and was told a different story than the previous day.
"It Was Just Blood Splattered Everywhere"
On Saturday Oct. 15, Mills said she woke at 4 a.m. and the family was out searching for Jackson by 6 a.m. Word arrived quickly that the Hortons had moved out.
“Somebody said they saw Larry and Angie carrying two bags of their clothes and left in a truck” between 1 and 3 a.m. Saturday morning, Mills said.
A group of people, including Jackson’s family and Mills’ family, went back to the Rambo Court house around mid-day on Saturday and knocked on the door. Crites opened the door and confirmed that the Hortons were gone.
The group asked to come inside the home and look around. Crites admitted them into the living room.
“It looked like somebody was beaten to death,” Precht said. “It was just blood splattered everywhere—all four walls, the ceiling, the couch, all on the floor. It was everywhere.”
As they walked on the carpet, cleaning fluid squished beneath their feet, they said.
A "significant amount of cast-off blood was found around the living room," a subsequent police report noted. "The carpet in the living room was soaking wet."
“Once we saw the blood, we didn’t want to be in there,” Mills said. “Common sense says don’t go in there, call the police,” which they did.
When the police responded, Crites told them what he said Larry Horton had relayed to him: Angelena had sliced her wrists the previous Tuesday and the blood was from her swinging her arm around, Crites said.
“They said the blood was from Angie swinging her arm around after a suicide attempt,” Precht said. “Oh come on. You aren’t getting all four walls, swinging your arm.”
Baltimore County police declined to comment on specifics related to the investigation of Jackson’s death, which has been ruled a homicide and for which Horton has been charged.
“We are not in a position to comment,” said police spokesperson Det. Cathleen Batton.
Mills and her family were certain something terrible had happened to Jackson.
“After [the police] left, we searched," Mills said. "We searched the woods all around here, from Hillcrest [Park at Lansdowne Road] down to the Royal Farms [at Hammonds Ferry Road].”
A member of the search group went back to Rambo Court and opened a garbage bag behind the house. Inside was a bloody blanket covered with black hairs, according to Precht.
“We called the police again, and they said the same thing, that the blood was from something else,” Mills said. “We kept telling them it was more than that.”
Mills, Precht and others say that a police officer took the bloody blanket and left.
Cause of Death: "Multiple Chopping Wounds"
According to police, Jackson's body was found by a passerby at around 2:02 p.m. on Oct. 15 in a trash-strewn wooded area off the 5500 block of Pennington Avenue in Curtis Bay, an industrial section of Baltimore City.
Jackson's body had "visible traumatic injuries," police officials said.
Police obtained a search warrant and secured the Rambo Court residence. According to police, bloody curtains were found in a white trash bag in the living room. Two trash bags were found sitting just outside the back door. Inside these bags were a hatchet and several other bloody items, two empty bottles of bleach with blood on them and Jackson's wallet.
"When [the police] took the couch outside, you could see a whole imprint of Ryan's body underneath," Mills said.
"You could tell his body had been there," Precht said. "You could see his head, his arms."
An autopsy at the medical examiner's office found that Jackson had been killed by "multiple chopping wounds."
"I know Ryan tried to defend himself," Mills said. "When we went to the funeral home, they said he had cuts all along his hands and arms. So he tried."
"He Lied To Me"
Crites, who described himself as a church-going man who allowed the Hortons to live with them as a favor, denied knowing that a killing had taken place in his living room. "There's no way I'd be involved in anything like that," he told Arbutus Patch.
On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Crites said, he arrived home after his regular 2-10 p.m. work shift at a Glen Burnie supermarket and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.
"I came home, went into the kitchen to make a sandwich and went upstairs," he said.
Crites said he has known Angelena Horton since she was a teenager and gave the couple a place to stay after Larry's release from Anne Arundel Detention Center on Oct. 3, where according to court records he was being held on a probation violation related to a 2009 second-degree assault.
On Wednesday night, Horton asked to borrow Crites' car, saying he wanted to take a toy locker from the backyard to his mother's house in Brooklyn Park, Crites said.
"He said he was going to his mother's house," Crites said. "He lied to me. He used my car to dump the body."
On Friday, Oct. 14, according to police, Horton called Crites at work and said he needed to get a carpet cleaning machine from his mother's house and to pick up Angelena at St. Agnes Hospital, where she had been admitted.
They arrived in the parking lot at Crites' home in time to meet Mills and her mother.
"We didn't pick up on it Friday, when we were all standing there and he brought the shampoo machine right past us," Precht said. "And her in a hospital gown with stuff all on her arms, like she unplugged herself and walked out. All of this right in front of us."
Arrested in Alabama
The Hortons were tracked to a motel in Bayou La Batre, about 20 miles away from Mobile, AL. A task force of the U.S. Marshals arrested the Hortons on Oct. 19. They are being held at the Mobile Metro Jail pending extradition to Maryland.
Larry Eugene Horton, 37, has been charged with first degree murder. According to Baltimore County police officials, Angelena Horton is being held on probation and parole violation.
Jackson had known the Hortons for many years and was friends with their stepson, Mills said. "That's why he thought it was an okay place to be, since he'd known them for a long while," she said.
According to Mills, Jackson was killed as part of a robbery. "Larry hit him upside the head and robbed him," she said. "He needed money to buy his drugs."
Resorting to violence was unnecessary, Mills said. Jackson would have given Horton the money.
"All Larry had to do was ask and Ryan would have given him the money," Mills said. "He gave money to every bum on the street. He gave money out until there were no more ones in his pocket."
"A Good-Hearted Person"
Candles are still lit at the memorial set up in front of the Rambo Court home where Jackson died.
"He's always been a good kid," said Mills' stepfather, Charlton Allen. "That's why it hurts so much, because of the person he was. He brought everybody around him close to him. If you met him, you'd be close to him immediately. He was a good-hearted person."
"He was the sweetest thing I ever met," said Mills, who had known Jackson since they were 2.
"He cared for me and this baby," she said. "He was focused on this baby. That's all he cared about. He was looking forward to being a father."
The baby, due at any time, is a boy who will be named after his father; Ryan Wesley Jackson, Jr.