I have been wanting to write about this case for over a year. At least, that’s what I assume, since I have a file containing notes I took on the Disappeared episode that date back to March of last year. So, no time like the present. The case concerns the suspicious missing person case of a 51 year-old trucking company dispatcher named Jackie Markham. A mother and grandmother, Jackie was devoted to both her job and her family, making it all the more concerning when she seemingly vanished into thin air shortly before Christmas of 2000. Adding to the mystery is a strange phone call she is alleged to have made immediately before vanishing.
Jacquelyn Lorraine Markham was born on August 29th, 1949. I was not able to find out much about the earliest part of her life, except that she married quite young and had three children (Melissa, Lisa, and Scott) by the time she was 20 years old. The first marriage ended in divorce, and she went on to marry a man named Larry. Jackie and Larry would separate, remarry, and then divorce again for the final time in 1999. In 2000, she bought a new house, and was living and working in Callahan, Florida, near Jacksonville.
Jackie is reported to have enjoyed her job as a dispatcher for Cheetah Transportation and taken great pride in her work. In addition to her three adult children, she also had two grandchildren at the time she went missing. She had begun dating casually, and two of her suitors, Archie Carroll and a man referred to only as “Richard” will be discussed further in the context of her disappearance.
We’ll start on the afternoon of December 14th, 2000. Jackie had been working at Cheetah Transportation, as usual, but that day she left early to run some errands in preparation for visiting with her family for the holidays. At 6:30 pm, she called her boyfriend, Archie Carroll, and said that she was running late and asked if he could pick a prescription up for her at the pharmacy. However, the pharmacy was open late enough that Jackie was able to get to the pharmacy get the medication herself. She is recorded as having picked up her prescription at 6:51 pm.* If she went directly home, she should have arrived there around 7:00 pm.
It would be after this point that Archie Carroll would receive an odd phone call from Jackie. The two of them had planned to meet up at Jackie’s home that evening to decorate her Christmas tree, but Jackie called Archie and told him not to come over. The reason she gave for this was that “Richard was over, and had been drinking.”
So…who’s Richard? As it turns out, there are at least three men to whom the name could apply. I’ll start with the one who is generally believed to be the most likely candidate and discuss the other two as they appear in the narrative. The man Carroll believed that Jackie meant was a man she had been in a casual relationship with previously. Her warning to Carroll not to come over has been implied to be due to romantic jealousy and tension that existed between the two men, which she feared would escalate if they confronted each other. It’s somewhat ambiguous as to what happened after this point. According to one account, Carroll ignored Jackie’s warning and went to her house to find her already gone. In another, slightly different version, Carroll told Jackie that he was going to come over regardless, and she agreed, but cautioned him to “control his temper.” Carroll arrived to find Jackie’s car still parked outside her home, with her prescription from the pharmacy still inside, but no sign of Jackie herself. Wherever she had gone, she had evidently taken her purse, phone, and work shoes with her. He noted some empty beer cans inside the home, although it’s never made clear if these appeared recent or not. Carroll then contacted an unspecified member of Jackie’s family and said that she had “run off with Richard” and that he didn’t know where she was. He would later say he assumed at the time that the pair had left to avoid him. Although this detail is not pursued in depth in any of the sources I found, it does not appear that the family member took this seriously at the time, as Jackie was not reported missing until the following day.
Archie Carroll let himself into Jackie’s house with a key she had given him and remained there all night, apparently waiting for her return. In the morning, he found a neighbor of Jackie’s and asked him to help search the house, This neighbor’s name was Richard Blanco, adding our second “Richard” to the mix. Carroll called Jackie’s work, and upon not being able to reach her there, contacted the Sheriff’s office to report her missing. If some of these actions seem odd to you, you’re not alone, and I’ll discuss them in more detail when it come time for my own speculation.
By this point, one of Jackie’s coworkers was alarmed when she didn’t show up for work and alerted one of her daughters. Investigators arrived at Jackie’s house, and although nothing appeared out of order, it was declared a crime scene. Jackie’s jewelry was still present in the home, which would make authorities doubt that she had been the victim of a home invasion and robbery. It’s a bit unclear to me if the door to the home was actually locked when Carroll arrived there the previous evening. He had a key, but in the Disappeared episode he said that the entrance was usually kept unlocked during the day and that Jackie kept her garage door open so her dog could go outside. Whatever the truth of this, there have not been any statements from law enforcement about any signs of forced entry.
As unremarkable as the scene was inside, investigators did find something of interest in the backyard. Jackie’s yard backed up to a wooded area. A trail led through the woods before joining up with another road, making for what was estimated to be a “two minute walk” in the Disappeared episode. Tire tracks led from the yard through the woods to this road. Neighbors also mentioned seeing a dark pickup truck parked in front of the house during the previous day, although it’s never specified when this was or if this vehicle description matched one belonging to any of the individuals close to the case.
Law enforcement was quick to suspect foul play in Jackie’s disappearance, given how out of character it was for her to drop contact with friends, family, and work in such an abrupt manner. A news article quotes Captain Carl Woodle, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s department, as saying “We are treating this as a suspicious circumstance because her friends and family were adamant that this was unusual. Of course, we have had some cases where people insisted that someone would never go off without calling and that turned out to be exactly what they did. We just can’t rule anything out until we find out what happened.” He went on to say that there were no obvious indicators of foul play, but that suspicion was increasing with the passage of time.
One of the people investigated was the much-discussed Richard,** a possible former romantic interest of Jackie’s. Friends and neighbors of Richard’s said he had been at a dinner party with them that night, and had never gone to Jackie’s house. Richard also had poor eyesight and avoided driving during the evening hours. Although the precise time interval when Richard visited his neighbors, as well as the distance between his home and Jackie’s are both unknowns, this information does make it considerably less likely that he was present in her house when she called Carroll.
Meanwhile, Jackie’s family was expressing suspicion regarding Archie Carroll. Two days after Jackie was last seen, he spoke with a friend of hers and paraphrased his previous comment about her “running of with a boyfriend,” adding that Jackie did this all the time. This, despite having been concerned enough about her safety to camp out in her house for the night and call the Sheriff’s department in the morning. There were also concerns about his treatment of Jackie. Jackie’s daughter as well as one of her friends thought Carroll seemed possessive and clingy towards her. Carroll has always denied this behavior, and said that their relationship was never terribly serious. He was cooperative with the investigation, although he did eventually get a lawyer (as most people in his situation would be advised to do). In a voicemail he left for an Unsolved reporter, Carroll stated: “I am sorry, I have nothing to tell you. I went to see her and help her, she sounded like she was in trouble. I got there and she was gone. End of story. I have never seen or heard from her again. I want it solved like everybody else. God, I do. I want everyone to know I had nothing to do with it.” Regarding what he thought happened to Jackie, Carroll told East Coast News: “I think this is someone that liked her and wanted her company and maybe by the fact that she went with him, it was a come on cue or something and maybe he tried something and maybe it went negative, it went violent. That is really my gut feeling on it.”
Carroll’s car was searched, and it was noted that a rug had been removed. He said this was due to a leaking cooler, and retrieved the rug for investigators to examine. Nothing suspicious was found. For obvious reasons, the reported “Richard” call came under close scrutiny. Because Jackie had used a landline to contact Carroll, records of the call could not be traced and its existence could not be definitively proved. However, Carroll did have a roommate who said he remembered him getting a call from Jackie that evening.
Even in more recent years, there seem to be things about Carroll’s version of events that do not quite sit right with investigators. In 2013, Detective Jeff Stull said, “I do believe there was some jealousy spurned. There was some arguments between her and Archie Carroll.” With regards to Carroll, Still said “From what I understand, he’s very demanding. He shows up unannounced. Some of the past girlfriends we’ve spoken to, he’s made threats to.”
Five days after she disappeared, Jackie’s purse was found outside of Berman Brothers Inc., in a roadside ditch approximately fifteen miles (Google Maps estimates the drive time as about 30 minutes) from her home. This was in what was considered a rough part of town and not one Jackie would have any known reason to visit. All of her credit cards and identification were found inside. The reason this location becomes potentially significant is that it was only two blocks away from an abandoned railroad car where a rapist and suspected murderer named Ross Lane Emerson was living. Emerson had skipped parole, and after being arrested, he admitted to two murders, including that of thirty-three year old sex worker Katrina Benson in January of 2001. He was also suspected of a third murder, and he was questioned about Jackie Markham. He always denied any connection to her disappearance, even in a letter he left prior to committing suicide in prison in the fall of 2001. Now, I personally think that Emerson is a bit of a long shot as a suspect in Jackie’s case, but I do think there is one final detail worth mentioning. One of Emerson’s frequently used aliases was Richard Hubbard.
Essentially, this is where the known facts of Jackie’s case end. There was a flurry of activity with regards to the case in 2013, when investigators stated that they were retesting evidence found at the scene, as well as testing “additional evidence.” Detective Jeff Stull commented that he believed these tests would lead them to a person of interest, adding that he believes this person was likely someone already investigated in connection to the case. To me, this implies that law enforcement already had at least one person in mind, but that they lacked sufficient evidence to actually charge anyone with a crime. Given that nine years have passed since this update, I think it’s fair to surmise that the testing did not in fact reveal the information investigators were hoping for.
So what can we glean from what we do know about Jackie Markham’s disappearance? I’m going to start by discussing the strange phone call about Richard that Archie Carroll claims to have received from Jackie. I think the interpretation of this call can be broken down into five possibilities. Please remember that everything listed below represents a hypothetical scenario and I am not stating any of these things as a fact.
- Richard was really at Jackie’s house. Despite the alibi from his neighbors, Jackie’s friend/ex-boyfriend, Richard, really did come to her home, intoxicated and hostile. Jackie then left with him or was forced to leave with him before Archie Carroll arrived.
- Jackie was not telling the truth. There are two potential angles to this one. Either Jackie lied to Carroll in an attempt to deter him from coming over or attacker forced her to make up a story so that Archie would not interrupt the crime in progress.
- Archie was innocently mistaken as to what Jackie told him. Jackie did call Carroll, perhaps telling him that someone was with her, and he either misheard or assumed she meant Richard.
- Archie Carroll was not telling the truth. This one is going to take the most untangling. In this case, Carroll either never received the call, or if he did, the call had nothing to do with anyone named Richard. This would make his account and subsequent behavior highly suspicious.
- Jackie was referring to a different Richard. We know there was at least one man living nearby who was named Richard, and we also know there was at least one man with a violent history living in the general area who might have called himself by that name. Also, Richard is not a terribly uncommon male name. It’s even possible that Jackie knew more than one person called Richard, beyond her friend and her neighbor.
I’ll start by discussing scenario number one. We don’t know very much about Richard, or if aggressive behavior such as that referred to in the phone call was at all characteristic of him. We do know he was given an alibi by people he was having dinner with that evening, and that he had trouble driving at night due to his vision. On the east coast in December, 7:00 pm is well past sunset. It’s possible his eyesight problems were exaggerated and would not in fact have prevented him from navigating his way to Jackie’s house, or that he had someone else drive him, but we still have to contend with multiple witnesses who said he was with them during that time. Without more information, I think the only evidence of his involvement is a second hand account stating that Jackie said he was there. In other words, I don’t see much immediate purpose in pursuing this lead further.
Was it possible that Jackie only told Carroll that Richard had come over, and that this was a fabrication on her part? If Jackie simply didn’t want Carroll to come over, using Richard as an excuse doesn’t make a lot of sense. If some kind of romantic rivalry had developed between the two men, Jackie would almost certainly have known that bringing up Richard’s name would only escalate the situation. In fact, according to Archie Carroll’s own account, this is exactly what it did. There are a hundred more banal excuses she could have used if she just didn’t feel like socializing with Archie at the moment, so why pick the one that was the most likely to provoke him? The idea that she was forced to make up something on the fly by an unidentified attacker is, to me, a more likely possibility. Someone could have been waiting for Jackie and followed her inside, and then used a weapon to force her to comply with their demands. If she tried to warn them off by saying someone else would be arriving soon, this person then could have forced her to call Carroll and cancel their plans. This is all entirely possible, but there are some problems here that make it a bit short of solid. All the accounts I have read say that Jackie called Archie, not the other way around. Why would an intruder allow Jackie access to the phone at all, unless it rang and this intruder wanted to delay indicators of anything being wrong in the home? There would have been no reason to risk her signaling for help unless the assailant needed access to the house for an extended period of time. As nothing appears to have taken from the house, this can’t be said to be a major factor in their plans. It would have made more sense for this person to take Jackie and leave the area as quickly as possible.
I’m only going to spent a brief amount of time on possibility number three, before moving onto number four, simply because there is so little to unpack from it. Could Archie Carroll have simply misheard Jackie, and there never was any actual Richard reference? Absolutely. It’s very easy to mishear or misunderstand things spoken over the phone, especially if the call was as rushed and strange-sounding as Carroll described it. Yet this tells us nothing but that an unknown person was with Jackie that night, whose name we don’t know, and that evidently left with her before Carroll reached the home. With possibility number four, we have to contend with the idea that Carroll was consciously lying about the phone call. His roommate stated that Carroll did receive a call from Jackie around the time described. However, as far as I can tell, the roommate had no way of knowing the contents of the call. Without the “Richard” detail, we can only say that Jackie called Carroll and he then went to her house. There are certainly some strange things reported about his behavior during the next hours, although they could have any number of explanations. By his own account, he stayed the night at the house, alone, before finding Blanco in the morning to search the home. At one point, the precise time unknown, he contacted a family member of Jackie’s and said she had run off with Richard. Also unknown is if he used his own phone or Jackie’s home phone to make this call. The morning search seems odd. I can understand why he might have wanted assistance and a witness to ensure that he wasn’t tampering with anything at the scene. The thing is he had already been at that same scene the entire night. By his own admission, he could have altered a thousand things inside the home before bringing Blanco in with him. In addition, treating the home as a potential crime scene seems odd given that he says he believed Jackie had left willingly with Richard, and was only away from the home to avoid him.
One thing that would be helpful to know is if anyone else saw evidence of Carroll being in the home at any point that night. There are some vague statements from neighbors about seeing a dark pickup truck parked in front of Jackie’s house, but the precise time is unclear as is whether or not any of the individuals close to the case drove a vehicle like this. Also, if the tire tracks in the backyard indicate that this was the actual point of departure, is a sighting of a vehicle in front of the house actually of any significance at all? According to his own statements, Archie stayed in Jackie’s house until morning, presumably after driving there in his own vehicle. Yet there is no indication of whether or not the dark pickup could have been his. Carroll’s actions on the night of December 14th and morning of December 15th are in no way proof of anything. What we are left with is that his (unverified) alibi is having spent the night in the home of a missing woman, which does cast some skepticism on his version of events.
Lastly, we have to explore the possibility that there was someone named Richard with Jackie that night, just not the Richard from possibility number one. We know almost nothing about Richard Blanco other than that he was a neighbor of Jackie’s. As such, he likely knew her and knew the area reasonably well. If he wanted to drive through the woods to Jackie’s backyard, lure her outside, and abduct her, he may well have had the means to do so. But we know nothing of him having the motive or opportunity, so, as with the other Richard, there’s no reason to focus on him unless other information comes to light.
What about “Richard Hubbard”, or Ross Emerson? We know he had a violent history, but other than the alias and the purse being discovered close to where he lived at the time, there’s really nothing to specifically link him to Jackie. Investigating him was definitely necessary, but I don’t think the results of that investigation particularly bolster the case that he was Jackie Markham’s abductor and likely murderer. As far as anyone has been able to ascertain, he did not know Jackie or have any connection with her. If he was involved in her disappearance at all, it was most likely as a complete stranger. If that was the case, why would he even bother introducing himself to her, and why would she refer to him on the phone as though he were someone she and Archie Carroll both knew? Of course, there are plenty of other people named Richard, and I keep wondering how many of them Jackie might have known, even superficially. I also wonder how thoroughly this trail was investigate. Could there be some yet unmentioned Richard among Jackie’s coworkers or friends?
I’m also very curious about those tracks in the backyard. Jackie vanished from her address on Hive Lane in Callahan, Florida, slightly northwest of Jacksonville. While I cannot say how much the area has changed in the past twenty-two years, the currently available satellite map I found of the area supports the comment that it would have been possible to leave the backyard and to go through the woods to another road. Hive Lane appears to be a short, dead end street with a few residences on each side and at the end. North of this cluster of houses is a thickly wooded area with at least one trail connecting to Bismark Road. If one were to take Bismark Road and turn east, they would be heading towards Four Creeks State Forest, an extensive swath of forest and waterways. Turning west would take them through Callahan and towards the Florida-Georgia state line. Just across the state lane is a section of the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge. In fact, when I entered the distance between Callahan, Florida and Moniac, Georgia, on the southern edge of the wildlife refuge, it was only an estimated 23 minutes of driving time. In context, the implications are sinister. Of course, at some point, someone deposited Jackie’s purse in Jacksonville, although this could have taken place at any point in the five days after she vanished.
One thing about the backyard tracks: they make me very much doubt that Jackie’s disappearance was random or unplanned. If those tracks do indeed belong to her abductor, then that individual drove to Bismark Road, then took a trail through the woods that they knew would come out behind her house. They likely knew her schedule or knew when she would be home that day. Jackie may or may not have known her abductor, but they knew her, and they did not want to be seen approaching her home.
Jacqueline Lorraine Markham has not been seen or heard from since December 14th, 2000, and there has been no activity on her bank account. Melissa Myrick, Jackie’s daughter, voiced a feeling that is not uncommon in the loved ones of missing people. A loss of a family member under any circumstances is always tragic, but when someone vanishes without explanation, they enter a kind of limbo that can be uniquely difficult to face. “We can’t put flowers on anything,” Myrick said. “You know, we can’t go sit and remember her in any place we feel that there is a connection to.”
If you know anything about the disappearance of Jackie Markham in December of 2000 please call the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office at 904-225-5174.
*Unknown if this information comes from surveillance footage, a receipt, or both.
**No surname provided
Picture from: https://disappearedblog.com/jackie-markham/