SNOW HILL- Roughly eight months after a Texas man was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Christine Sheddy, a Delaware woman reported missing in November 2007, the other shoe dropped last week for a pair of Lower Shore residents who allegedly assisted in the cover-up of the crime.
Tia Johnson, 31, and Clarence “Junior” Jackson, 37, both of Eden, were each charged last week with accessory after the fact to murder and fourth-degree burglary for their roles in the cover-up of the Sheddy’s murder in November 2007. Justin Hadel, now 21, of College Station, Texas, was convicted last June of first-degree murder in the beating death of Sheddy and was sentenced to life in prison.
During Hadel’s three-day trial last June, it came to light his cousin, Johnson, and her boyfriend, Jackson, knew more about the murder then they were letting on and likely had a role in the attempted cover-up. Last week, Johnson and Jackson were formally charged with accessory after the fact to murder and burglary. Both are being held without bond this week after separate bail review hearings for Johnson on Tuesday and Jackson yesterday.
Sheddy, a 26-year-old Delaware woman, was reported missing in November 2007 from a farm near Pocomoke where she had been staying with friends. Sheddy had moved to the Byrd Rd. residence just about two months earlier and shared the residence with Jackson and Johnson, along with Johnson’s two children, and Hadel, who is Johnson’s cousin.
Sheddy was reported missing on November 13, 2007, touching off a massive search in the area of the Byrd Rd. residence where she had been living with her two young children. After an extensive two-year search, Sheddy’s remains were discovered buried on the grounds of the River House Bed and Breakfast in Snow Hill, where both Jackson and Johnson had worked prior to Sheddy’s disappearance.
In February 2010, Worcester County detectives met with Jackson at a corrections facility in Tennessee where he was being detained on an unrelated case. During an extensive interview, Jackson allegedly told the detectives Hadel had murdered Sheddy on the Byrd St. property and laid out in detail the extensive cover-up operation.
“Jackson stated that after the murder, he assisted Hadel in temporarily concealing the body and then later placing it in Tia Johnson’s vehicle and driving it to the River House bed-and-breakfast,” charging documents read. “Jackson said he chose that location because both he and Johnson had previously worked there and that he knew the owner of the property was out of town and the business would be vacant.”
Jackson told detectives he and Hadel were accompanied by Johnson and her two children, according to charging documents, and described the attempt to conceal the remains.
“Once at the River House, Jackson and Hadel dug a grave and buried Sheddy’s body,” the statement of charges reads. “The three then broke into one of the guest houses where they spent the night. The guest house was secure and the suspects made entry by utilizing a key which Jackson had taken from the owner of the property.”
In addition to allegedly being on hand when Sheddy’s remains were buried on the grounds of the Snow Hill bed-and-breakfast, it came to light during the trial last June that Hadel had confessed to Johnson on two separate occasions following the murder. Johnson, who had refused to testify in the months leading up to Hadel’s trial under fear of incriminating herself in the crime, was compelled to testify just prior to the trial by the court under the doctrine of “use immunity.”
Use immunity is granted to a witness in a criminal case that prevents the use of the witness’s compelled testimony against that witness in a criminal prosecution. A witness with use immunity may still be prosecuted, but only based on evidence not gathered from the protected testimony.
Under the “use immunity” doctrine, Johnson meticulously laid out the details of the events leading up to and after Hadel’s beating death of Sheddy and it became clear Jackson and Johnson were involved in the cover-up, although the extent of how much Johnson knew and when she knew it was not entirely clear.
What was clear, however, is that Hadel eventually confessed to Johnson while the two were in a car together at a gas station in Salisbury after the convicted killer’s two failed attempts at confessing to his cousin. By the end of the trial, it was clear Johnson and Jackson were involved in the cover-up.
In his closing arguments, Hadel’s attorney Arch McFadden attempted to paint his client as a pawn in a larger cover-up constructed by Jackson and Johnson.
Even State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby acknowledged during the trial Jackson and Johnson appeared to be involved in the cover-up, but Hadel was responsible for murdering Sheddy. Eight months later, Jackson and Johnson are now being held accountable for their roles in the tragedy.