This is the text version of the YouTube video "The 4 Brothers Who Were…".
Click on a phrase of interest to open a video of that moment.
It was a headline that really made us sick. Four young boys starved by their own parents. Nobody knew what was going on inside their house until it broke wide open with this call to 911. OPRAH: That 911 call from a next door neighbor prompted police to take a closer look inside this New Jersey home. What they found was a house of horrors. Four young boys with emaciated bodies, literally starving to death. Bruce, who neighbors thought was a little boy, was in fact 19 years-old and weighed only 45 pounds. Treshawn was 14 and weighed 40 pounds. Terrell was 10 and weighed 28 pounds. And 9-year-old Michael was found wearing baby clothes, weighing a mere 23 pounds. All four boys had been adopted years earlier by Raymond and Vanessa Jackson. Friends described them as a church-going couple, loving parents who opened their home to foster children in need. The Jacksons claim their four sons were so small because they suffered from eating disorders. The boys told police they were given only raw oatmeal and pancake batter to eat. When authorities removed the boys from the home, they were filthy, had rotted teeth and head lice. Police found a lock on the refrigerator and an alarm on the kitchen door. Bite marks discovered around the house supported one boy's claim that he was so hungry he chewed on the windowsills and wall plaster. This is by far the most horrific case of child abuse and child neglect that we have seen over the years. OPRAH: Vanessa and Raymond Jackson were charged with 28 counts of aggravated assault and child endangerment. Raymond Jackson died of a stroke during the investigation. Almost two years after he was found scrounging for scraps in the garbage, Bruce faced Vanessa Jackson in court. He had grown over a foot and gained nearly 100 pounds since leaving her home. JUDGE: How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty? Guilty. OPRAH: Vanessa Jackson pled guilty to one charge of child endangerment in exchange for a reduced sentence. She served four years of a seven-year prison term and was released in February of this year. She continues to deny she ever starved or hurt the boys. So, we talked to Vanessa Jackson's daughter who told us that her mother had no interest in talking to me. And I just wanted to say to you, Vanessa, any time, anywhere I will meet you so that you can explain this to me. Let's see those photos again. Treshawn was 14 and 40 pounds. A typical 14-year-old weighs 115 pounds. 40 pounds is what a normal 4 or 5-year-old weighs. Terrell was 10 and 28 pounds. The average 10-year-old should be about 70 pounds. 28 pounds is the average weight of a 2-year-old. And Michael was 9 and just 23 pounds. Most 9-year-olds weigh about 60 pounds. 23 pounds is the average weight of an 18-month-old toddler. That was seven years ago. Those brave young brothers have been through a living hell and are here with their triumphant story. Come on out, Treshawn, Terrell, and Michael. [APPLAUSE] Woo! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Victory. Victory. Victory. Well, you guys are looking good! - Thank you. - You're looking really good. - Thank you. - Really good. I want to say, Bruce isn't here. But Bruce is really the hero of this story. Is he not? - Yes. Yes. Because had he not gone out in the middle of the night looking in the trash for food, you might still be trapped in that house. And even be dead. And might even be dead. Tell me what you remember about those years. Back when living with the Jacksons, it was a house of horror. Anything thing you did, they would punish you for it. Well, when would you all-- obviously, you all were starved. But you had to have something to eat over the years, otherwise you would have been dead. Would you-- were you allowed to eat once a day or how often were you allowed-- I guess-- I guess it was all-- - Maybe once a day. It was like all depends how she was feeling. You never knew, like, how many times you was going to eat. And sometimes, when she did call you in there, she would give you a certain time limit that she would give you. She'd call you in and be like, well, you have a minute to eat all this. And if you don't finish it, you're not going to get your next meal. So, when we would go in there, we would be rushing, just stuffing food in our mouth, hoping that we can hurry up and finish and feed ourselves. So we can get the next meal. So tell me this, had you come to her as-- how old were you when you first moved there? The age I came at the Jackson's house was 5-years-old. 5-years-old. And how old were you? I was 2. You were 2. And I was at least a year. A year old. So, you were little babies brought in for foster care. - Yes. - Yeah. Yes. And then, did she eventually adopt you? Yes. After two years. After two years. Were you fed at first? - Yes. The first two years, yes. And after that, that's when everything changed. That's when the Vanessa Jackson that we know now started coming out. Yeah. And what happened? Do you know what happened after that two years? To tell you the truth, I really don't know what happened. It just hit us. Did you all go to church? Because we saw that they were church-going people. Well, when we went in church, they basically like stuff like sweaters, hoodies. And they like made us wear like thick clothes to make us look like we were healthy and stuff like that. Sometimes, they had us wear like three to four sweaters just to make ourselves look like we were big and we were healthy when we really weren't at all. So, did you ever think to tell somebody? When I was going to school-- when I was going to school and I was telling my teacher about it, but then my teacher wouldn't believe me. So eventually, the Jacksons found out that I was telling my teacher. And they eventually took me out of the school and tried to homeschool us about it. Really? What did you tell your teacher? That-- I started telling her like, I'm hungry, and I'm not-- and my teacher was like, she noticed because I like was getting skinnier and skinnier all the time. And then sometimes, I would actually come there asking my teacher for food. But she didn't believe you? No, ma'am. And obviously you told somebody, so that your-- Vanessa Jackson found out. Yes. And then homeschooled you all. And after you were homeschooled, you had no access to the outside world. No. Not at all. You were just locked in the house. Locked in the house.