Former Wetumka mayor arrested on child sex abuse charges
By Ken Childers
The former mayor of Wetumka, who resigned at the end of a fiery city council meeting in January, has been arrested on charges of child sexual abuse.
On March 26, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Hughes County Sheriff’s Department arrested James Jackson at his home on Main Street. He has been charged with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor. The warrant was issued by the state of Illinois.
At a city council meeting on Jan. 14 that resulted in the firing of City Manager Donnie Jett, Police Chief Joe Cooper said both Jett and Jackson were under investigation by the FBI, and that he had turned over a 300 page report to the agency.
Jackson announced his resignation as mayor at the end of a specially-called city council meeting on Friday, Jan. 31. The agenda included a proposed executive session to discuss abolishing the police department and moving its funds to the sanitation department for a “critically needed multi-million dollar, 40-year sewer lagoon loan.”
The meeting got underway with a fiery exchange between councilor Norma Marshall and Jackson, in which she accused him of stalking her. Jackson denied the accusation, telling Marshall he had never followed her home.
“Yes you did. It was you,” Marshall said. “What were you doing following me home? Are you stalking me? You’d better not!”
The council then convened into a 45-minute executive session. Upon return to open session, Jackson announced that he and his wife Rebecca, who also served on the city council, would resign. The couple said they would resign on one condition – councilman Randy Hinkley had to go as well. All three officially resigned later that day.
The Jacksons moved to Wetumka in 2017 and purchased the former newspaper building, where they operated a digital archiving business with a woman they referred to as their daughter, Autumn Jackson.
According to online publication NonDoc, Autumn previously went by the name Paula Israel in Fulton, where she briefly filed to run for mayor at age 17 near the end of 2016. She withdrew her candidacy and joined the Jacksons in Wetumka. James Jackson has referred to Autumn as an emancipated adult who had been adopted as a minor, but the pair’s interactions bothered some people in Wetumka.
“They were scared or freaked out by things he was doing with that young girl. It was just [public displays of affection], and a lot of folks didn’t approve of it,” former Wetumka police chief Joe Chitwood said in January.
Jackson told NonDoc that all of the allegations made against him are absurd. “You name it, they’ve said it. There’s hardly anything you could say minus murder, I guess ― I don’t know that they’ve ever said that. But everything else they’ve said. Everything in the world, like I took pictures of little children,” he said. “I don’t even own a camera. I don’t own a smartphone. I’m talking to you on a flip phone.”
At press time, details of the investigation that led to the arrest had not been released, but the Fulton Police Department said the investigation was ongoing and Jackson could face additional charges.