It’s been eight years since a local pig hunter discovered Amber Jackson’s remains in a remote part of Kealia.
Her death was classified as a second-degree murder, but no charges have been filed and no arrests have been made.
For Jackson’s friends and family, it’s been eight years of mourning her loss, honoring her memory and fighting for justice.
“Amber Jackson was my cool, eclectic aunt living in Kauai, that always had a positive spin on things and always inspired me to be positive,” said Matt Alexander of Atlanta.
As a young adult, Alexander visited his aunt several times. She’d take him surfing and to restaurants. They’d hang out on her lanai late into the night and talk story.
Once Jackson took him surfing at Hanalei Bay. She stayed on the beach yelling at him, giving him positive reinforcement. That’s one of Alexander’s favorite memories of his aunt, who loved Kauai and its people. But with all he’s experienced since her death and the investigation, Alexander said he now has a bad taste in his mouth for Hawaii, especially Kauai.
“This beautiful oasis that I put on this pedestal, I can’t even go there,” he said in a recent phone interview with The Garden Island newspaper. “The thought of it just makes me kind of squirmy, I just can’t do it. It’s a bummer, a big bummer.”
Jackson was originally from Riverside, California, but also lived in California’s Marin County and Bay Area, as well as Washington state, before moving to Kauai. She owned a lettuce farm on the Big Island prior to moving to Kauai, where she was a homeowner for 10 years.
On Kauai, Jackson worked at the Hawaii State Teacher’s Association and in real estate.
On June 23, 2010, she was scheduled to meet friends for dinner, but never showed up. A missing persons case was filed with Kauai Police Department. On July 3, her body was found.
She was 57 years old when she died.
‘KPD remains committed’
In a statement to TGI, KPD Assistant Chief Bryson Ponce said police have identified a person or persons of interest in connection to Jackson’s murder, but have faced difficulties in being able to obtain a confession. They also don’t have enough evidence to charge someone with the crime.
“Whenever a confession, evidence, eyewitness or enough circumstantial evidence is not fully obtained, yet for one reason or another, these types of cases will take longer to move forward,” Ponce said.
The focus of this case throughout the years has not changed, he said.
“KPD remains committed in trying to solve this case by following up on any credible leads and potential advances in DNA technology for future testing of evidence,” he said.
There are 15 cold cases being investigated by the KPD that go as far back as 1979. KPD keeps those cases on the forefront by ensuring they are looked at, not just collecting dust on a shelf, Ponce said. From time to time, they assign different investigators to the cases, for a set of fresh eyes, in the hopes that new ideas can be developed, he said.
For homicides, Ponce said, there is no statute of limitations.
“The Kauai Police Department remains committed in seeking justice for and solving the Amber Jackson murder and will continue to work with partnering agencies such as the FBI, private labs, the Honolulu Police Department as well as other police departments in Hawaii,” he said.
‘I miss her so much’
This case has been maddening, frustrating and painful, said Ann Spaulding, one of Jackson’s best friends.
“Can you imagine what it would have been like, to be taken, to have been brutalized and to know they have at least a prime suspect and possibly accomplices and to know nothing has happened?” she asked.
In the mid-1970s, Jackson walked into Fairfax Bakery in Marin County, California, where Spaulding worked, to buy a cream puff and to apply for a job. She got the job and they became fast friends. Eventually, they would become roommates.
“We watched ‘Mork and Mindy’ together all of the time and he (Mork) would always say ‘Nanu, nanu,’ and we became Amboo and Annoo. Those were our nicknames for each other, so we were very close,” Spaulding said.
After the death of her father, Jackson used some of the money he left her to purchase a home in Washington state, but Spaulding said Jackson never felt connected to the community there. While on a vacation to Kauai, Jackson was inspired to move here.
“She found a house on Kauai that was overgrown and it ended up having papaya trees and banana trees,” Spaulding said. “It was unbelievable, it was hard work, completely on her own.”
Jackson’s death has left a hole in Spaulding’s life.
“It’s hard for me not to think about her,” Spaulding said. “I have pictures of her, I pray to her, I try not to bring her back into our world if I can help it, let’s just say she’s part of my team. There’s certain people you keep in your heart — my mom, Amber and others who have left us.”
Jackson is never forgotten, Spaulding said.
“I miss her so much,” she said. “She was my best friend.”
Since the murder of her friend, Spaulding has worked tirelessly to bring justice for Jackson.
“I realized, I think about a year ago, that some part of me can’t accept that Amber’s dead,” she said. “Until whoever it is is convicted and justice is done, I can’t rest and there’s a part of me that just can’t let go of Amber. I won’t let go of Amber in my heart ever; I haven’t fully grieved Amber’s loss.”
‘I’m angry, angry, angry as hell’
Nancy Murphy met Jackson in 1976 when they worked together at two places, a drug treatment center and a legal aid center.
Jackson was kind, considerate and someone you could talk to about anything, Murphy said.
“I’m angry, angry, angry as hell for the people who murdered her, for whatever the reason it was — control, selfishness, didn’t want to lose their gravy train,” Murphy said.
Having the case unsolved after all these years is frustrating and maddening, she said.
Murphy said she tries to live with forgiveness, but in this matter, she can’t even come close to that.
“I want the person who did this to go to prison,” she said. “I’d like to see somebody pay for doing it and taking such a beautiful person away from so many who loved her.”
Since her death, Alexander said he’s held onto not only Jackson’s ashes, but also the ashes of her parents. He’d like to see the case solved, so her family and friends can return to Kauai to dispose of them together. But because the case’s resolution is taking so long, he is considering other options.
“I don’t believe that’s ever going to happen. I’m afraid I would probably still harbor ill will toward Hawaii and Kauai,” Alexander said. “It’s unfortunate but it’s hard to get out of your head. But we would rest easy knowing that someone’s going to be held accountable for their terrible, terrible act.”
The Amber Jackson Justice Group is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for her death.
Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or email@example.com