They didn’t have a plan, but the two young women knew they had to get out fast.
It was after dark when they ran from a suburban Cincinnati hotel room. Cody Jackson had been gone for hours. They didn’t know where they wanted to go. They just knew they had to go.
The decision seemed dangerous. Cody had made it clear: Nobody leaves him.
Cody’s designated babysitter, a young woman from his hometown who stayed with him in motel rooms and made sure the girls he slept with?followed his rules, said she wouldn’t alert Cody immediately. She would give them a head start.
The pair?took turns carrying a bag they'd packed. Then one of them had the idea to drop some of the clothes and other items?to mislead Cody, to take him off their trail.
Together, they made it to a house on a nearby street, but a man who answered the door wouldn’t help them. It’s the 21st century, he said. Why don’t you have a cellphone?
They had a cellphone, but Cody had left explicit directions that they were to call no one but him on it.?
Soon, they found themselves in the driveway of a nearby parking garage.
They saw Cody’s Chevrolet Silverado driving toward them, its headlights cutting through the night. He was looking for them.
Maranda, who at 19 was the older of the two, pushed the younger teen into a ditch and then lay flat on the blacktop. This is the end of us, she?thought.
But Cody drove right past them.
They ran into the garage, and Maranda finally?called 911 on her cellphone.?She was crying. They opened the door to a janitor’s closet on the ground floor and hid inside.
Andrea, just 17 and 1,200 miles from home, was overwhelmed with fear.
They waited for the police to arrive.
And prayed Cody would not find them first.
If something were to happen to them, they believed Cody would get away with it.
Just like everything else he did.
Cody Jackson was born Oct. 24, 1995, in Wisconsin Rapids, a city of about 20,000. It’s home to a 1,000-acre paper mill that towers alongside the banks of the Wisconsin River. The city sits in the middle of the state, about 100 miles from both Green Bay and Madison, in the heart of cranberry country. In the summer, there’s even a four-day cranberry blossom festival that includes a parade.
The local school district has two public high schools. One is for troubled or at-risk students.
Cody’s father, Argil Jackson, owns several gas stations in the area. Kelly Pulvermacher was working as a cashier at one of Argil’s stations when the two?started dating. Argil, who had divorced several years before, was 50 when Cody was born to the couple. Kelly, at 33, was 17 years younger.
Kelly and Argil never married. When Cody was about a year old, Kelly moved out, taking her baby with her.
Argil, she said in an interview, was too controlling: “I felt like I was in jail there.”
The particulars were sorted out in court.
It was determined that Kelly was clinically depressed and a judge said she couldn’t provide enough stability for the little boy. Argil was awarded custody.
It wasn't perfect but Kelly said Argil was “good about” regularly bringing Cody to her house to visit.
In the summer of 2009, when Cody was 13, something changed.
Cody was put in foster care that year, family members said. His father insists he protested the move. His mother said it was necessary because Cody had become “uncontrollable.”
By the time he was supposed to go to high school, Cody decided he’d had enough of school. He’d already been diagnosed with several mental health conditions and?had been?involuntarily?committed?to a mental health facility in late 2009, according to police records and court documents. As a teenager, he was prescribed multiple different medications. He received some counseling and psychotherapy.
But the follow-up treatment he needed never occurred.
A social worker who worked with Cody as an adolescent would later inform authorities that he considered Cody “a budding sociopath.”
Records show that between the ages of 13 and 17, Cody was arrested at least 10 times in Wisconsin for crimes including disorderly conduct, battery and sexual assault. When he was 15, he was listed as a runaway twice.
Cody would end up living with his father who was supporting him financially. His father would allow Cody to have girls sleep over at the house, something his mother would not allow in her home.
Cody’s mother remembers that one night, Cody became enraged when she said no to his request to have a girl stay the night.
Their relationship never recovered, she said.
Cody, she added, has a hard time forgiving people.
Frequent rumors had persisted in Cody’s hometown about the teenager having sex with underage girls. David Bailey, a Wisconsin Rapids police detective who worked as a liaison officer at a local high school, heard them.
Bailey noted that there was a pattern to Cody's?behavior.
“He targeted at-risk girls, who had contact with the police before. It wasn’t the straight-A students who were never in trouble. It was more of the at-risk kids that were involved in more dangerous behavior,” Bailey said. “A lot of times they’ve had police contact, and they don’t like the police.”
When Cody was 17, police investigated him for an alleged sexual relationship that was said to have taken place in March 2013 involving a 16-year-old girl in Wisconsin Rapids. No charges were filed. Police reports say the two teenagers had?had sex at an apartment that Cody’s father rented for him.
On April 25, 2013, the mother of a different 16-year-old Wisconsin Rapids-area girl, who is not being named but will be called Anna, reported her as a runaway.
That same day, Anna and Cody had gotten into an argument. When she threatened to leave, Cody?grabbed her arms and held tight.
Two weeks later, when a detective talked to Anna at River Cities High School, she explained that Cody “has been violent to her before.”
Then she showed the detective her arms, which still had evidence of bruising from the argument with Cody.
Anna had been staying with Cody, who was still 17, at a Wisconsin Rapids apartment.
Cody had been controlling, Anna told police. He didn’t allow her to talk to other people. When he saw her “talking” to people he didn’t approve of on Facebook,?he deleted her account.
Once, according to Anna, Cody caught her talking to someone else on her cellphone. He promptly destroyed it.
Argil, apparently wanting to keep Anna?happy, replaced it.
For that violent episode, Cody was charged with battery and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. This?Wisconsin case was never resolved. It is still pending.
But Cody moved on.
By late April 2013, he met a 21-year-old married woman, also from Wisconsin Rapids. The woman – who will be called Ashley – had gone to a friend’s house after a fight with her husband. Cody happened to be there.
Within two weeks, he’d convinced Ashley to drive with him to Florida in her new Nissan Maxima.
The pattern he would soon perfect was taking shape.
For about a week or so, Cody would shower his target with attention. He’d tell them they were the only person he’d ever loved. He’d talk about starting a family with them. How they’d live happily ever after.
Then, at some point, he would become someone else entirely. He would try to control their access to others. He would become violent. He would tell them they could not leave. Then he would look for another companion.
In Ashley’s case, after?they arrived in?Florida, Cody took away her cell phone. Every call between Ashley and her mother, he insisted, had to happen on speakerphone because he wanted to hear what she was saying.
After about a week in Florida, Cody and Ashley returned to Wisconsin Rapids and?took up residence at Argil’s house. Ashley told a friend she was scared but she didn’t want the friend to do anything. Ashley’s mother, as well as other family and friends, went to Argil’s house to talk to her.
Cody again insisted on being in the room with Ashley, to hear everything that was said. She still chose not to leave.
The next morning, Ashley texted her mother: “Tell (my husband) I’m sorry…. I love and miss him!!! Don’t text back!”
Despite the efforts to separate Ashley from Cody’s grip, the pair took to the road again, heading back to Florida.
Argil was willing?tohelp his son. He paid for a U-Haul trailer to load up and take south. He set them up in a house in Palm Bay, a town on Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway, halfway between West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach.
On June 13, Ashley sent her mother several emails, using a different name. In one, she said she wanted to leave, but had to wait for the right time. The next day, Cody found out about the emails and vaguely threatened her.
On June 16, Cody again sought control, but this time he threatened?violence. He called Ashley’s mother, and told her she “was going to be the first one he was going to get when he gets back to town.”
Ashley’s mother called Wisconsin Rapids police.
What was happening between Ashley and Cody is unclear. Ashley was an adult, having made a conscious decision to leave her husband and to stay with Cody. He was 17, jobless, and using his father’s money to fund his escapades.
At some point during their time together, Ashley became pregnant. In July, she miscarried. Cody called her mother from the hospital to deliver the news.
Cody would become a father for the first time the following month. The mother of his child was an 18-year-old named Melanie from the Wisconsin Rapids area.
Two months later, Ashley left Cody and went back to her husband, just as Cody was scheduled to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges in the case involving Anna, the 16-year-old runaway.
He didn’t show up.
Maranda was 18 when she met Cody in Florida through the dating site, MeetMe.com.
She was living with her aunt. Cody, now also 18, was living in the house in Palm Bay. It was late 2013.
The same day they exchanged internet messages, Cody and his male roommates picked up Maranda at her aunt’s house.
The New Hampshire girl spent that first night with him at his home. The next day, Maranda quit her job and moved in.
Cody was kind to her, she said. He made it seem like being with him was perfect. He sometimes spoke in “baby talk.”
Maranda?allowed herself to hope for a long-term relationship.
They were together for about two weeks.
“Cody got sick of me and left me in a hotel for three days,” Maranda said, “until my mother was able to fly me home.”
He moved on to other girls in Florida.
He found a 16-year-old and took her to South Carolina. The girl, whom police considered a “habitual runway,” agreed to go with him wherever he went. She will be called Christine.
A few weeks into their relationship, Cody began to assert control. He stopped allowing Christine to smoke. In public, he insisted she not look anyone else. He told her to close her eyes if a man or woman on television was naked or was wearing revealing clothes.
Christine said she wasn’t “able to use the bathroom or shower alone.”
She said Cody once pinned her to a bed by her wrists and left bruises. He slapped and punched her, she said. If she didn’t comply by his rules “there would be a huge fight.”
Christine, too, got pregnant.
And Cody became increasingly violent. “There were several occasions of Cody pushing me up against counters and kicking my stomach, I guess in hopes of me miscarrying,” she wrote in a statement.
Christine’s mother, who reported her missing in October 2013, called police over the next three months, trying to help, giving them information about where she might be.
In December 2013, police found Christine in South Carolina. Her mother drove her back to Florida, but she ran away again. Back to Cody.
Four months later, apparently on her own, Christine left Cody.
Three months after that, she gave birth to a boy.
With a warrant for his arrest in Wisconsin still?pending, Cody was not about to stick around.
The 18-year-old had an eighth-grade education, two children, no job, no permanent home, no plan, and few skills.
But he knew how to lure fragile young women into relationships by promising safety, attention and love. Even after he had wronged them or left them or hurt them, they’d sometimes take him back.
Cody also had a father who supported him financially, sending him money through Walmart, which allowed him to drive endlessly through multiple states with little concern about the cost.
Maranda, who had been stranded by Cody in Florida, returned to New Hampshire and then moved to Colorado.
In mid-June 2014, Cody found her and told her he was moving to Colorado.
He arrived in Colorado with a girl from Iowa in tow. He asked Maranda to show him and his new girlfriend around.
It’s not clear what kind of relationship Maranda expected to have with Cody. But she agreed.
She would later say: “It was like he took over your mind. When I was with him, I was not myself.”
Soon enough, the girl from Iowa was gone, and a new one –? she was from Wisconsin – took her place. She will be called Grace. All the while, Maranda stayed in the picture, all of them living with Cody in a rented house in Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs.
Maranda’s position in the household was curious. She considered herself Cody’s roommate, one who agreed to have sex with him when he demanded it, even if he also was sleeping with the other girl in the house.
He insisted it had to be this way.
“Every time I get a girlfriend we agree. No strings attached,” Cody said in a text message to Maranda. “And I’m sorry we broke up. But you have to understand. I don’t give second chances. You said you (would) be able to be mature about this. So do it.”? ??
Cody would leave her and Grace in the house all day. They were not allowed to look at other men. They were not allowed to talk to each other.
And if they broke the rules, Cody, again, became a different man.
He once used a forearm to choke Maranda until she was nearly unconscious.
Cody saw himself as invincible. He saw the girls and young women as disposable.
The police couldn’t find him. The courts couldn’t touch him.
This could go on forever.