The FBI and the Hughes County Sheriff’s Department arrested former Wetumka Mayor James Jackson this morning at his Main Street residence. Jackson is being charged with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a minor in the state of Illinois.
Jackson, whose controversial tenure as Wetumka mayor ended with a Jan. 31 resignation, also faced allegations of financial impropriety during the time he and his wife, Rebecca, served on the Wetumka City Council. The Jacksons and a young woman whom they sometimes referred to as their “daughter” moved to Wetumka from Fulton, Illinois, in 2017.
After James Jackson’s arrest, Sgt. Nick Neblung of the Fulton Police Department distributed a press release, which asked any victims of or witnesses to possible sexual assault or abuse to contact law enforcement:
On March 26, 2020, James H. Jackson, 59, former resident of Fulton, Illinois, currently residing in Wetumka, Oklahoma, was arrested by local law enforcement authorities. Jackson’s arrest was based on an active warrant issued by the state of Illinois. Jackson was charged with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a minor.
James Jackson was transported to Hughes County Sheriff’s Department, where he was processed into custody on the arrest warrants. The Fulton Police Department is conducting an active investigation where additional charges are pending.
It is reminded that any victim or witnesses of possible sexual assault or abuse are urged to contact their local law enforcement agency to make reports.
The Fulton Police Department is currently being assisted locally by the Whiteside County Sherriff’s Department and the Whiteside County States Attorney’s Office.
James Jackson background: From Fulton to Wetumka
When James Jackson and Rebecca Jackson moved to Wetumka in 2017, Rebecca Jackson took a job as a pharmacist in Holdenville, the Hughes County seat about 20 minutes south of Wetumka. The couple purchased the former newspaper building in Wetumka and operated a digital archiving business there with a woman they referred to as their daughter, Autumn Jackson.
But Autumn Jackson 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 Hughes County. James Jackson has referred to Autumn Jackson 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.
Chitwood investigated the Jacksons for a series of allegations before being terminated and now serves as chief of police for the nearby community of Calvin.
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,” James Jackson said. “I don’t even own a camera. I don’t own a smartphone. I’m talking to you on a flip phone.”
Both Jacksons eventually resigned their council positions Jan. 31 after a failed attempt to abolish the Wetumka Police Department and redirect its funding to address problems at the town’s sewage lagoons.
Donna Dyer, CEO of the East Central Oklahoma Family Health Center, learned of James Jackson’s arrest early Thursday.
“This has been a serious situation that we have had to work through,” said Dyer, who is a candidate for one of the council seats vacated by the Jacksons. “It has been a challenging time for the town, and we hope that we can move forward. We encourage all citizens to comply with whatever comes with the investigation.”
Dyer said the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed Wetumka’s special election to fill three of its five city council seats. Now, the election is planned for June 30, leaving the town without a fully functional council.
“We are still in turmoil with the town because we still can’t get very much stuff done. It’s basically day-to-day operations,” Dyer said.
A message left for Hughes County Sheriff Marcia Maxwell was not returned by the publication of this story.
(Update: This story was updated at 11:11 a.m. Thursday, March 26, to include video provided by a town resident.)