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Mahogany Jackson texted she was kidnapped. Days later 8 suspects were charged in her murder

"The facts of this case are deplorable and sickening," police said.

March 13, 2024, 8:52 PM

Alabama mother Mahogany Jackson was found shot in the back of the head on Feb. 26 by the side of a road in a remote area in Birmingham, Alabama, hours after she texted her mother saying that she had been kidnapped and asking for help, according to the Birmingham Police Department.

Now six of the eight suspects charged in connection to the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of the 20-year-old Jackson appeared in court Wednesday morning for a preliminary hearing.

"The facts of this case are deplorable and sickening. Saddest of all, they were made public by the suspects' decision to videotape portions of this horrific act," BPD Chief Scott Thurmond said during a press conference on Feb. 28, announcing the arrest of several suspects. "We have to shield Mahogany's family and friends by withholding specific facts surrounding the investigation. However, we have determined that Mahogany was a victim of sexual assault with murder and kidnapping."

"This is undoubtedly one of the most heinous acts I've seen in my career. It's absolutely disgusting," Thurmond added.

The suspects

Police announced on Feb. 28 that seven suspects were arrested and charged in connection to the kidnapping, rape, assault and murder of Jackson, a native of Jasper, Alabama, while an eighth suspect was arrested on March 1.

Brandon Pope, 24, Francis Harris, 25, and Jeremiah McDowell, 18, were each initially charged with capital murder during a first-degree kidnapping and capital murder during first-degree sodomy and are being held without bond. According to ABC affiliate in Birmingham, WBMA, investigators said during a bond hearing on March 4 that Harris is believed to have fired the fatal shot.

But according to WBMA, Pope and McDowell's capital murder charges on the basis of rape and sodomy were dismissed during the preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

“While this is a terrible incident, my client maintains his innocence,” McDowell’s attorney Glennon Threatt told ABC News on Wednesday evening, adding that the dismissal of those charges against his client shows that the “state was overcharging.”

PHOTO: From top (left to right): . Giovonnie Clapp, Blair Green , Francis Harris, (second row) Teja Lewis, Si'nya McCall, Jeremiah McDowell, Brandon Pope
From top (left to right): . Giovonnie Clapp, Blair Green , Francis Harris, (second row) Teja Lewis, Si'nya McCall, Jeremiah McDowell, Brandon Pope
Birmingham Police Department

Giovannie Clapp, 23, and Blair Green, 25, and Si'Niya McCall, 23, were charged with felony murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sodomy, while Teja Lewis, 26, was charged with felony murder.

Lewis and Clapp also were also initially charged with second-degree assault, but Clapp's assault charge was reduced from second degree to third degree assault on Wednesday.

The eighth suspect, Ariana Lashay Robinson, 23, was charged with felony murder - kidnapping, according to police. She was present at the hearing on Wednesday but her case was bound over by another judge, per WBMA.

During a March 4 bond hearing the five additional suspects were denied bond, WBMA reported.

ABC News has reached out to the attorneys representing each of the suspects. Attorneys representing Clapp and Lewis declined to comment, but attorneys representing the sixother suspects did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests.

Thurmond said that the suspects in this case "were not strangers" and were all acquainted with each other. He also said that Jackson was acquainted with the suspects.

PHOTO: Airana Robinson
Airana Robinson
Birmingham Police Department

Thurmond thanked the public for sharing information that helped lead to the arrests in this case.

"You answered the call," he said. "This case highlights the strength and effectiveness of the partnership between the Birmingham Police Department in our community."

A call for help

BPD spokesman Officer Truman Fitzgerald told ABC News in a phone interview on Monday that police began the investigation into this incident as a missing person's case after they were notified before 11 a.m. local time on Sunday Feb. 25 about a text message that Jackson sent to her mother.

In the message, Jackson told her mother that she was being held hostage and shared the name of an individual who lives in the apartment where she was allegedly being held, as well as an address and asked her mother not to call her back, but urged her to reach out to the police, Fitzgerald said, adding that it was the last time anyone heard from Jackson.

"[Police] went to that apartment right away and began searching immediately. They searched the apartment where she was supposedly, they searched the complex. They spoke to witnesses," Fitzgerald said, "but by then [Jackson] was not [there]."

According to Fitzgerald, BPD detectives learned during the investigation that the alleged kidnappers found out that Jackson used her phone after she texted her mother and threatened her to reveal her passcode so they could unlock her phone. Jackson could have presumably been moved to a different location before police arrived on the scene, Fitzgerald said.

PHOTO: Mahogany Jackson
Mahogany Jackson
Birmingham Police Department

"One of [the suspects] told her if she gave her password, they would allow her to live," Fitzgerald said.

According to police, a witness who is not involved in the incident found Jackson's body at around 2:19 a.m. on the side of the road at 17th Street SW and Laurel Avenue.

Fitzgerald said that Jackson's body was found "in a kind of isolated area near a residential neighborhood" about two and half miles away from the apartment that Jackson had indicated she was being held at in the text message to her mother.

Jackson's family and community members held a candlelit vigil on Feb. 29 in honor of her memory at the Serenity apartment complex – the community in the Powderly community in Birmingham where Jackson went missing, according to WBMA.

Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr, whose office is investigating this case, told WBMA on March 4 that Jackson's family, who attended the bond hearing for the suspects, is "shaken."

"They're definitely shaken. It is one thing to hear a lot of -- what we call chitter chatter out there, but to be in a formal setting and hear what happened to a loved one like that could be very disheartening, obviously," Carr said.

ABC News has reached out to Carr's office for additional comment.

Asked if police expect to arrest any additional suspects, Fitzgerald told ABC News on Monday that based on the evidence detectives have obtained so far, "[investigators] do not see any more suspects being arrested."

He added that while arrests have been made, the investigation is "ongoing" with detectives gathering evidence and "polishing up the case" ahead of a future trial.