HOUSTON (AP) — On the day six children and two adults were fatally shot inside their Houston home, deputies made four separate visits to the house over about a nine hour period before they went inside, according to a timeline authorities released Thursday.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office had initially declined to say how many times its deputies had gone to the home Saturday after receiving numerous 911 calls asking them to check on the family. The first call came from the children's grandmother, who had received a text from her daughter saying she was being held at gunpoint, authorities said.
David Conley, the former domestic partner of the children's mother, Valerie Jackson, remains jailed, facing capital murder charges. Authorities say Conley handcuffed most of the eight family members and eventually shot each of them in the head. His attorney hasn't returned messages seeking comment.
Killed in the shooting were: Jackson, 40; her husband, Dwayne Jackson, 50; and her children, 13-year-old Nathaniel, 11-year-old Honesty, 10-year-old Dwayne, 9-year-old Caleb, 7-year-old Trinity and 6-year-old Jonah. Authorities say Nathaniel was Conley's son from his relationship with Valerie Jackson, while the Jacksons were the parents of the other five children.
According to the timeline, the first 911 call for a welfare check was made at 10:42 a.m. Saturday. Deputies arrived at the home seven minutes later. They reported two vehicles in the driveway, "no response from inside the home, home secured," and left the scene at 12:05 p.m.
The sheriff's office received additional 911 calls on Saturday asking for more welfare checks at the home, and deputies went back to the house two more times, at 4:43 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. Each time, deputies also said that there was no response from inside the home and left the scene.
At 7:51 p.m., another 911 call was made to the sheriff's office and deputies returned to the home at 8:55 p.m. Deputies remained at the home for nearly 1 ½ hours before a child's body was seen inside the house through a window at 10:26 p.m.
Deputies tried to enter the home but were met by gunfire from Conley two minutes later, according to the timeline. A standoff ensued between Conley and authorities until Conley surrendered at 11:58 p.m.
The sheriff's office has declined to say when the eight family members were shot or if any of them might have been alive during any of the visits by deputies.
Deputy Thomas Gilliland, a sheriff's office spokesman, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment Thursday. On Wednesday, the judge handling Conley's case issued a gag order.
Earlier this week, authorities said they couldn't go in until they saw the child's body through the window.
"There certainly comes a time in any law enforcement's career that we're going to come across something where we think we might do something but the law may restrict us from doing such. In this situation, I can't go into too much detail about it right now. The officers on the scene did not have enough information at the time to make forced entry into the residence," Chief Deputy Tim Cannon said.
Houston criminal defense attorney Grant Scheiner said while police can't typically go into a home unless they have permission or have a search warrant, certain exceptions would be allowed under what's known as exigent circumstances, where there is an emergency situation.
"I'm just astonished that the officers didn't investigate further," he said. "There are so many things they could have done to confirm or disconfirm the nature of the call short of kicking down the door. If they thought someone was in danger, they should have kicked down the door. A door can be replaced. What a tragedy."
Meanwhile, a funeral service for the victims has been scheduled for Monday at Fallbrook Church in Houston.
A GoFundMe account has been set up by Valerie Jackson's family to raise money to have the bodies of the woman and her children flown to Minnesota, then driven to La Crosse, Wisconsin, for burial.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70