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Missing Mother Found Dead in Trunk of Car in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- The search for Ebony Jackson has turned into a search for whoever left her dead.

Police said the body of the 30-year-old Oklahoma City woman was discovered in the trunk of her car here Tuesday -- four days after her 3-month-old boy was found abandoned in a Breckenridge Hills apartment complex with no known connection to Jackson.

"I'm numb," said a tearful Tondra Mosley, of Los Angeles, in a phone interview moments after learning of her cousin's death. "This was an only child to her mother, and now there is a baby with no mother after only three months of giving birth. For her life to be taken like this; what makes a person want to take the life of another person? What makes you go that far? What was the gain? What was the purpose?"

Police have known that Jackson's 2004 Mitsubishi Galant was equipped with a GPS tracker as part of its financing. Investigators obtained a court order Tuesday morning to activate it, which led them to the 4400 block of Elmbank Avenue in north St. Louis.

At least one neighbor along the desolate city street, lined mostly with vacant lots and crumbling houses, said the car had been there for days. The car had Colorado license plates, contrary to an early alert posted by a relative that the registration was in Oklahoma.

The car was towed to the St. Louis County police crime lab in Clayton at about noon. Breckenridge Hills police, who ran the missing-persons investigation, obtained a search warrant to open the trunk just before 5 p.m. Jackson's decomposed body was inside, police said. The cause of death was not immediately determined but was presumed to be foul play.

About two hours passed before Breckenridge Hills police notified Jackson's mother, Stella Jackson, of Denver, of the body's discovery, officials said.

It was unclear what role the small police department in Breckenridge Hills, a community of about 5,000, will play moving forward. The St. Louis County medical examiner will conduct an autopsy, county police are checking the car for evidence, and city police will lead the homicide investigation.

Meanwhile, Jackson's family is struggling to understand.

Stella Jackson is a retired Army veteran whose military job led her to different states during Ebony Jackson's childhood. When she wasn't traveling with her mother, Ebony Jackson lived with Mosley's mother in East St. Louis. She attended the John F. Kennedy elementary school there before it was demolished, Mosley recalled.

As a teenager, major headaches began to plague Ebony Jackson, family members said. Doctors discovered a brain tumor. Surgeries did not remove it entirely, and a shunt drained fluid and pressure from her brain, family members said.

At first, her cognitive function seemed to be greatly impaired, said Mosley, who moved in with Stella Jackson, whom she considers her sister, to help care for Ebony Jackson, whom she considers her niece.

But, through the years, Jackson's memory improved. Mosley said Jackson had dreams of joining the Air Force but could not pass the physical exam. Most recently, she worked as a sales representative at Macy's and lived with Craig Prom, the father of her child, in Oklahoma City. The two had dated for about two years, Mosley said.

When she learned she was pregnant, Ebony Jackson was overjoyed, having written off her fertility as a casualty of the medications and medical treatments, family members said.

The only residual effects of the tumor were moments of confusion that felt overwhelming for Jackson, Mosley said. "What's normal for us, like misplacing keys, would make her lose awareness of all that was going on," Mosley said. "She would always call her mother, that was her nucleus, that's what keeps her centered."

Stella Jackson added, "She always felt like she was less than everybody else because of what she struggled with."

And that's why her family knew something was wrong when they couldn't reach her by cellphone on Friday after her baby, Donavon Prom, was found safe in a car seat in the heated apartment hallway. There is no known witness to his arrival.

On Jan. 2, Jackson had left the home she shared with the baby's father. He came home from work that day to a note from Jackson saying she needed her space, Mosley said.

Prom could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Stella Jackson said she could not reach him, either.

On Thursday, Jackson went to her aunt's house in East St. Louis, but no one was home. She then went to a neighbor's house about 8:15 p.m., Mosley said, to show off the baby. She left just before 10 p.m., telling the neighbor that she needed to find a place to stay for the night, Mosley explained.

Jackson then called Mosley's mother, saying she would stop by her house Friday with the baby, Mosley recalled. "She told my mother she was staying with a friend somewhere in Fairview Heights or O'Fallon," Mosley said.

There would be no visit; on Friday, the family recognized pictures of the abandoned baby on TV. A family spokeswoman, Linda Lawson, issued a statement outside the Breckenridge Hills Police Department late Tuesday.

"This is unimaginable heartache, and we are our brother's keepers," she said. "Someone out there knows what soulless people did this: Please come forward to let us know before it's your loved one."

Copyright 2013 - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

McClatchy-Tribune News Service