Questions About a Father’s Disappearance Led to Answers That Were Far Too Close to Home

Britton grabbed hold of his arm and guided him into a chair. Her father came through the door from the parking lot.

"He's still breathing," he barreled, looking down at the young man who his daughter said was a child abuser. "Shoot him again." Wolfe fired another shot to the head.

Once Jackson's corpse was wrapped in a heavy blanket and placed in the back of Harry Britton's bright-orange Volkswagen, Wolfe cleaned the room. "There wasn't a lot of blood," he told the prosecutor.

John Wolfe (center) with other members of his Police Explorer unit.
Photo courtesy of Judy Carlson
John Wolfe (center) with other members of his Police Explorer unit.
Young John with his father, David Jackson, at Jackson's mother's house in Hollywood.
Photo courtesy of Judy Carlson
Young John with his father, David Jackson, at Jackson's mother's house in Hollywood.

They drove to the empty lot. Harry had already dug a shallow hole, hidden by vegetation in the sand. They dragged Jackson from the car and dropped him into the ground. When they saw the headlights of a car, they crouched low to avoid detection.

Wolfe said that he and Britton flew back to Tucson under assumed names. Two days after the murder, Jackson's roommate reported him missing.

The whole plan had been Barbara and Harry Britton's idea, Wolfe claimed. "Harry and I actually never talked about it. It went through her."

After a year, he said, he got a call from Harry Britton, who heard that developers were planning to tear up the land where they had buried Jackson to build the Walmart. Harry had returned to the site and collected Jackson's skull so no matches could be made through dental records. He told Wolfe to come get the rest of the bones.

Wolfe said he obeyed his father-in-law. He flew back, drove to the site, ducked low in the dead of night, and tried to dig the bones up from the ground with the aid of a flashlight. He got whatever bones he could find and put them out with the trash in front of the Britton house.

Police believed Wolfe's version of events. Once Wolfe made his statement, a grand jury met and agreed that with this information from an alleged co-conspirator, there was sufficient reason to charge Britton with first-degree murder. Although no one alleges that she fired the fatal shots, Florida law allows the most serious murder charge for someone suspected of helping to orchestrate and perform a plot to kill.

In mid-December 2007, just six weeks after Wolfe made his statement, detectives arrested Barbara Britton as she left to go to work.

Velazquez drove to the police station to meet her quarry in an interrogation room, one last time, and read her the indictment aloud: "Barbara Britton... did kill and murder David Jackson, a human being... to the evil example of all others..."

Velazquez recalls that she said the word evil with particular relish.

Britton spent three years in jail awaiting trial. But in December 2010, with the case still winding through the State Attorney's Office at a glacial pace, she was released on $5,000 bond. A hearing is scheduled for September.

Britton's private attorney, Keith Seltzer, adamantly denies that his client is guilty.

"This case is based entirely on Michael Wolfe trying to get his life sentence shortened," Seltzer says. "I believe Barbara had nothing to do with this... There's no confession [from her] anywhere... There are no records from the motel room, not one single bit [of evidence] that implicates Barbara."

Today, Britton lives at the same home, with her aging mother, her boyfriend, and her daughter from a husband she met while working at the Walmart beside the burial site.

She awaits her trial on house arrest. She wears a GPS monitoring bracelet around her ankle and is allowed to leave the house twice a week for church services. She does not work.

Michael Wolfe, writing from prison in Northern Florida, declined to comment for this article.

John Wolfe, now 27, recently moved out of the family home. He is not a policeman, but he works as a mall security guard. He also declined to comment for this article, deferring to his mother's wishes.

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