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The Capital Times, (Madison, WI)
May 22, 2001
Author: Jason Shepard, The Capital Times
Barry Jackson was getting an eye exam when he first got the idea to break into the home of one of Madison’s wealthiest businessmen.
Perched in a room with a view at the Veterans Hospital on the city’s near west side, Jackson noticed the sprawling estates of some of Dane County’s richest homeowners on the north shore of Lake Mendota and near Bishops Bay Country Club.
Later that night, Jackson, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former prison guard who never before had been arrested for a crime, drove the streets around Bishops Bay and settled on the home of Jay and Patricia Smith.
Jay Smith, who built a fortune in plastics and packaging and now runs an investment business with his son, is the current president of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. Patricia Smith is a former art teacher at Spring Harbor Elementary School.
On Oct. 23, 1999, Jackson, then 49, pulled black gloves over his hands, donned a mask and set out to break into the Smiths’ home — an opulent lakeside mansion off County M in the town of Westport.
But his plot didn’t go as planned. At about 10:30 p.m., Jay and Patricia Smith returned home as Jackson was about to climb a ladder to break into a second-story window.
When Jackson spotted Jay Smith outside smoking a cigarette, he confronted him with a short-barreled .357 Magnum pistol and ordered him inside.
Patricia Smith was out walking the family dog. When she returned, he pointed the gun at her as well and ordered them both into the master bedroom.
Jackson threatened to bind the couple with duct tape, but did not, and asked them to remove the jewelry they were wearing and place it in a cloth bag.
Patricia Smith gave him two diamond rings, a bracelet and a necklace, and Jay Smith gave him two gold rings. The value of the jewelry was nearly $80,000.
Jackson then asked if there was a safe in the house, and the Smiths led him to a 10-foot by 10-foot locked vault room. Jackson ordered the couple inside, locked the outer doors, and then rummaged through the house for about 10 more minutes, taking about $2,000 in cash.
He returned to the vault and spoke into what he told the Smiths was a two-way radio. He said he was talking to a partner, although he was working alone.
Jackson also asked to see the couple’s address book, and then leafed through it and said he was writing down the names of people inside who would be victimized should the Smiths call police.
Jackson then said goodbye and left the house on foot. As he walked to his car, listening to his scanner, he heard police being sent to the house.
Day in court: For almost two months, the Smiths had no idea who the man was who had robbed them of money and diamonds, who had locked them inside a basement vault, who had threatened to kill their friends and family if they called police.
On Monday, the Smiths, along with their daughter Brynna, sat in the front row of a courtroom as Dane County Circuit Judge Patrick Fiedler sentenced Jackson, 50, to 25 years in state prison.
He will be eligible for parole after serving one-fourth of the sentence.
Jackson has been in the Dane County Jail since Dec. 8, 1999, after police executed a search warrant at his mother’s house in Shullsburg, Wis., in LaFayette County. Police seized a roll of duct tape, burglary tools, night vision goggles, a .357 Magnum revolver, a shotgun, a semi-automatic handgun, camouflage clothing, a boot knife and a police scanner, according to Dane County sheriff’s reports.
When confronted with evidence that Jackson’s name was listed as the seller of the Smiths’ jewelry to an Alabama pawn shop, Jackson confessed to Detective Bill Searls.
After his arrest, Jackson pleaded guilty to five charges, including burglary while armed and masked, two counts of armed robbery while masked, and two counts of false imprisonment while armed and masked. But his defense claimed he was not guilty by reason of mental defect, sparking an evaluation of Jackson by two psychiatrists. Both of them, Dr. Patricia Jens and Dr. Lynn Maskel, concluded that Jackson was capable of distinguishing right from wrong, according to court documents.
In court Monday, Jackson apologized but said he was ready to accept his punishment.
“I meant no harm to their family,” Jackson said. “I’m sorry for committing this crime.”
The Smiths did not make a statement and left court without comment.
The case is unusual for several reasons. For almost two months, the Smiths — well known among Madison’s business elite — had reason to fear that their attacker would strike again, or perhaps prey on their friends or family.
The case is also notable because Jackson — by all accounts — fits no profile of a criminal.
“I’ve attempted in vain to try to figure out how you’ve come here today,” Judge Fiedler, a former secretary of the state corrections department, told Jackson as he sentenced him. “I still cannot figure out in my own mind why you would do this.”
Educated veteran: Jackson graduated from high school in 1968 and was the oldest of three children. His father died of a brain aneurysm when he was 12, and the death left a significant impact on Jackson, his relatives said in letters to the judge.
Jackson spent a total of 10 years in the Army and fought in Vietnam.
“He was quite a different person after that,” wrote his brother, Verne Jackson. Jackson married a woman he met during the service, but they divorced after six months.
Jackson was somewhat socially isolated and lost contact with his family to the point that they once hired a private investigator to find him. He received a degree in criminal justice at Jackson State University in Alabama with help from the G.I. Bill and worked as a prison guard at federal prisons in Oxford, Wis., and in Alabama, according to court documents.
His sister, Karen L. Bode, 44, said Jackson had been suffering from anxiety and depression for years, at times being treated with medication, and said she believed financial troubles left him feeling like he had no other alternative.
“I think he was so far in debt with no end in sight,” Bode wrote. Verne Jackson estimated that his brother had about $40,000 in credit card debt at the time of the robbery. It was obvious that both the judge and Jackson’s defense attorney, public defender John Tompos, struggled to understand why a man with Jackson’s background — and a man who had never before been arrested — committed such a heinous crime.
“We don’t expect, as a society, someone who is 50 years old, with a military background, with his education, his work background, to be here,” Tompos said.
Methodical, fearsome attack: In a commanding, forceful voice more appropriate for a college professor, Jackson in court Monday reiterated the key elements of his crimes.
“I was purposely going into the residence for a burglary, not an armed robbery,” he told Fiedler.
Police reports, victim statements and his own statements to police and doctors reveal more details of the crime.
Jackson had parked his car almost a half-mile away from the Smith residence so that he wouldn’t be detected if police were called. He was aware that police would use a tracking dog and took steps to make sure his scent wouldn’t be followed. He carried a police scanner to monitor the air traffic of dispatchers and local law enforcement.
He said he picked the Smiths’ house because it “would have a good return for the crime I was going to commit.”
Jackson stole a ladder from a nearby construction site and decided to break into a second-floor window because, he reasoned, most security systems aren’t equipped to monitor second-floor entrances.
“I was a little surprised that it was this extravagant of a home,” as he climbed the ladder to a balcony.
He climbed down, and as he walked around a corner of the Smiths’ house, he and Jay Smith saw each other.
That’s when Jackson decided he had gone too far to back away, and ordered Smith into the house.
Jackson said that what he called a “two-way radio” to a partner (actually a hand-held police radio scanner) and the threats toward friends and family were ruses to scare the Smiths into not calling police.
He also said he told them he’d been inside the house before, which was also a lie.
After the robbery, Jackson went to Alabama and then California, where he attempted to rekindle a relationship with an old flame. When it didn’t work out, Jackson returned to his mother’s home in Shullsburg.
Two days later, he was arrested after Detective Searls discovered that a pawn shop in Alabama recorded the serial number on a diamond that was stolen from Smith’s house.
Jackson had left his name at the pawn shop when he sold the rings on Nov. 5, 1999, for $16,000.
More than money: Assistant District Attorney Jac Heitz said the Smiths lived in fear for several months that the robber would return.
“They were fearful when, or if, this person would return or carry out the threats he made against their friends and family,” Heitz said as he argued for a 30-year prison sentence. “This is a person who did everything he could to instill fear in them.”
Fiedler said that the money or the jewelry may never be returned, but he doubted the financial impact was the most devastating result for the Smiths.
“Perhaps in your mind you have some distorted idea that you are a version of Robin Hood,” Fiedler said.
“I really wonder if you fully appreciate the terror that you put these victims through in the case,” he said. “These are people who can afford the financial impact … but emotionally they are the same as everyone else.”
Record Number: 0105220172