A 53-year-old man was convicted Friday in a string of sexual assaults and home invasions that terrorized a Kansas City, Mo., neighborhood in the 1980s.
Bernard Jackson stared straight ahead and gave no outward expression as Jackson County jurors declared him guilty of seven counts each of rape and sodomy, and four counts of robbery in attacks on four women in or near the midtown neighborhood of Waldo in 1983 and 1984.
"We are speaking with the victims right now," Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Ted Hunt said. "From what I've heard, obviously they're very happy, very appreciative and very happy this is finally over."
Jackson was arrested in May 2010 after five sexual assaults were reported in the same area of the city from September 2009 through February 2010. He has been charged in two of those attacks, and has pleaded not guilty. No trial dates have been set for those charges.
Jackson's arrest triggered elation among residents of Waldo, a middle-class neighborhood with tree-lined streets and locally-owned restaurants and shops. Police touted the arrest as the resolution of cases that had long ago gone cold.
In all of the cases from the 1980s, the victims were 29 to 31 years old and lived alone. All of them had their hands bound behind their backs while they were being assaulted. The victims also said their assailant blindfolded them and initially told them he was going to rob them. None were able to identify Jackson in testimony this week as their attacker.
Jackson was charged with raping, sodomizing and robbing three of the victims and robbing the other, though the fourth victim testified that she was also raped, and prosecutors often referred to the four rape victims throughout the trial.
During the weeklong trial, prosecutors largely relied on witness testimony and DNA evidence taken from the crime scenes that they said linked Jackson to the attacks.
Defense lawyer Carie Allen, who appeared shaken after the verdict and left the courtroom without comment, maintained throughout the trial that Jackson is innocent. She said Jackson was "scared to death" of the accusations, and that the evidence collected nearly 30 years ago was unreliable.
Jackson first went to prison in 1977 at age 19 after pleading guilty to raping a Kansas City woman in her home. He served less than six years of a 15-year sentence and was paroled in April 1983. He was living at a prison work-release center in Kansas City at the time of the later rapes and was arrested May 5, 2010, after police tracked him to a friend's home.
Hunt said that because of Jackson's legal status as a persistent sex offender, he faces a minimum of 30 years without parole on each rape and sodomy count. He also faces between 10 and 30 years on the robbery counts, Hunt said. No sentencing date has been set.
At least one of the victims attended Friday's closing arguments, sitting behind the prosecution.
Jackson "attacked these four women," Hunt said, "and today they got some justice and that's what it's all about."