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New Jersey Couple Indicted On Charges Of 'Unimaginable Cruelty' Toward Adopted Children

By Chelsea Karnash, Mark Abrams, Oren Liebermann, Diana Rocco

MOUNT HOLLY, NJ (CBS) – A United States Army major and his wife are facing charges for the alleged abuse of their three adopted children, including one who died in May 2008.

A 17-count indictment released Tuesday charges Army Maj. John Jackson, and his wife, Carolyn, with neglect, abuse, cruelty, and torture. The couple, who live in Mount Holly, are behind bars.

From about August 2005 until April 23, 2010, Carolyn Jackson, 35, and John E. Jackson, 37, formerly of the Picatinny Arsenal Installation in Morris County, NJ reportedly abused the three juveniles by breaking their bones, denying them medical attention and withholding water and force-feeding them hot sauce.

The Jacksons' three biological children were told not to report the assaults to others, and that the abuse was "justified," as their parents were "training" the adopted children how to behave.

In one instance, John Jackson learned from a friend that one of the kids had revealed the abuse, and Carolyn Jackson retaliated by beating the child with a belt.

U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman alleges the couple, "Withheld medical care. They withheld food, they withheld water. They imposed physical punishment, breaking bones."

During the course of the abuse, the Jacksons' kids suffered fractured bones and were denied medical care. Two of the adopted children had nourishment withheld from them and were, at times, not allowed to drink water at all. When they caught one of the adopted children sneaking food and water, they had one of their biological children prevent that child from drinking water from the sink or toilet.

Other punishments included forcing two of the children to consume items like red pepper flakes, hot sauce and raw onion. They also caused one child to ingest excessive sodium or sodium-laced substances while being deprived of water, leading to a life threatening condition.

"Carolyn and John Jackson are charged with unimaginable cruelty to children they were trusted to protect," said U.S. Attorney Fishman. "The crimes alleged should not happen to any child, anywhere, and it is deeply disturbing that they would happen on a military installation. Along with the FBI, we will continue to seek justice for our communities' most vulnerable victims."

The indictment alleges the abuse took place between 2005 and 2010 while Maj. Jackson was assigned to and living at the Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County, New Jersey.

One of the adopted children died in 2008, but no charges were ever filed.

The couple is believed to have moved to South Jersey last fall - but without the children, foster and biological, who were taken from the couple by child welfare authorities in 2010.

Currently, all of the children are in the custody of the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

John and Carolyn Jackson are charged in a 17-count indictment that includes one count of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, 13 counts of endangering the welfare of a child and three counts of assault.

The two appeared in federal court for an initial appearance on Tuesday morning, where they were temporarily detained pending a bail hearing on Thursday at 11 a.m. before Judge Falk in Newark federal court.

The crimes fall under federal jurisdiction because they were allegedly committed on a military base.

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