When a young Marine didn’t show up to roll call on Jan. 2, 2006, NCIS agents noted that his coat was still in his dorm room despite it being the dead of winter in Virginia. His murderer, Petty Officer Cooper Jackson, confessed to abducting and killing Corporal Justin “Jake” Huff, a complete stranger. His motive? According to Oxygen’s “A Lie To Die For,” Jackson’s girlfriend, who he knew as “Samantha,” told him that she had been raped by Marines at a party the year before, and Jackson was convinced one of the men involved was Huff.
The rape, however, was completely made up, and so was “Samantha.”
The woman depicted herself as a petite blonde-haired, blue-eyed, attractive art student, NCIS Agent Maureen Evans told producers. “Samantha” told Cooper she was from a wealthy family in Texas, and that they owned three houses in the Outer Banks. The couple communicated through telephone calls, emails and text messages, which included pictures of her undressed.
“Samantha” would never follow through with plans for her and Jackson to meet in person, Don Marcari, Jackson’s attorney, told CBS.
“She said she was in a car accident. She was in the hospital,” Marcari said, adding that on one occasion, she made plans to meet Jackson’s family for Christmas. “He went to the airport for 13 hours and she never showed up.”
After numerous failed attempts to meet his girlfriend in person, Jackson traced her phone number to an address in the Outer Banks, which turned out to be where she was. He didn’t see her, however, because when he called her on the phone, she convinced him that it was a friend’s house.
On Dec. 28, five days before Huff went missing, “Samantha” told Jackson over the phone that she had consensual sex at a party.
“What he hears is that she’s been raped, and he does not let go of that idea,” Special Agent Maureen Evans told “A Lie To Die For” producers. “Samantha” ended up agreeing to Jackson’s allegations that it was rape, and she added that servicemen were involved. The made-up story would result in Jackson convincing himself on New Year’s Eve that is was Justin Huff, a Marine he ran into at the base before but didn’t personally know.
At Cooper’s hearing the following summer, as the Navy sought the death penalty, “Samantha” finally presented herself as a key witness. Marcari noted that this was the first time Cooper ever saw who the real woman was: a 22-year-old, heavyset brunette, who worked as a hotel clerk in North Carolina, The Virginian-Pilot reported, and this wasn’t the first time she catfished service members.
The woman posing as "Samantha" had been calling strangers since she was 15, journalist Tim McGlone told “A Lie To Die For.” She wanted to talk to men and have remote relationships, mostly with sailors and marines because she lived near the Virginia Beach bases.
“I got the impression that she was remorseful and ashamed at what she had done, and that she did it because she had low self-esteem,” McGlone said, recalling her at the witness stand, where she cried during most of her testimony.
The woman testified that she lied about being raped, and she that “might have” told Jackson that one of the Marines involved in the purported gang rape was someone by the name of Huff or Huffman.
“'Samantha' was creating, I think, in her mind, almost like mini-movies, mini-stories. Fantasies for herself,” Joni Johnston told “A Lie To Die For” producers. “There is no question that Samantha’s deception in this situation started this perfect storm that ended up in somebody losing their life. At the same time, most response, even to a girlfriend being raped, would not be to try to hunt that person down, and slit their throat and burn their body.”
"Samantha" was not charged for any crimes.
Curious about how investigators were able to arrest Officer Cooper Jackson? Watch the latest episode of “A Lie to Die For,” which aired on Sunday, on Oxygen.com, and for more lies to die for, catch new episodes Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
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