Vanessa Jackson was sentenced Friday for holding her four adopted sons hostage in her New Jersey home, and starving and abusing them. One of the four brothers spoke out in court and told the woman he called Mom about the pain she had caused him.
"You starved us," said 21-year-old Bruce Jackson. "You said we stole food and then you starved us that whole day."
The other three gave their accounts on videotape.
"One time I took some food from the kitchen because I was hungry," said one of Jackson's brother in a taped statement. "She said: 'Why are you stealing?' I said, 'Because I'm hungry.' She gave me a beating."
The Jackson brothers began their road to freedom two years ago when a neighbor found a starving Bruce digging for food in a trash can and called the police.
"The day I left her house, the neighbors were still up," Bruce Jackson said. "I was hungry, and I looked for food in the garbage cans."
The neighbor called 911: "This little kid is eating out of the trash can at 3 in the morning. It's a little kid and he says he's hungry so he's out here at 3 in the morning. He must be homeless or something."
Operator: "How old does he look?"
Neighbor: "His name is Bruce. He says he's 19. He can't be 19. Oh Bruce, I'm going to start crying. It's a shame. I didn't mean to holler at you. I thought it was a dog in the trash can."
Two years ago, Bruce Jackson weighed 40 pounds. His brothers were also malnourished and undersized.
Prosecutors said Jackson and her husband, Raymond, who has since died, kept the four brothers in appalling conditions. Sometimes they were so hungry, they gnawed the walls. The Jacksons' biological children were allowed to lead normal lives.
The couple maintained their innocence, until last November, when Vanessa Jackson pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child.
Her lawyers still insist the brothers' stories are not accurate, but, since leaving the Jackson home, they have thrived. Bruce Jackson has grown from 4 feet tall and 40 pounds to 5 foot, 3 inches and 130 pounds.
"If you look at me now, you can see how much I have grown and all the help that I got from people that care about me," said another brother in a taped statement.
Last year, the Jackson brothers accepted a settlement from the state of New Jersey for $12.5 million.
The judge handed down the penalty that had been decided in a plea agreement, but seven years is far less than what Bruce Jackson thinks his adopted mother deserves.
"I want to see Ms. Jackson go to jail for life," he said. "You took my childhood."