BELLEVILLE, IL (KTVI) - A Belleville woman accused of lying about having cancer then collecting thousands of dollars from fundraisers to benefit her went to court Wednesday. Alissa Jackson, 31, was charged with two counts of felony theft by deception, with cops saying she stole at least $30,000 from people who thought they were helping a cancer patient.
People who thought Jackson was their friend would be the ones who eventually turned her in. One of them, Jen, who didn’t want to use her last name, says a single incident tipped them off to the lies.
“Alissa told us one night she was being rushed to the emergency room,” Jen said. “She wanted us to know that she loved us and if she didn’t make it she just needed us to know that she loved us, and we rushed to the hospital only to find she was not there.”
They first hired a private investigator to confirm suspicions, then went to police. Detectives spent a month working on the case prior to the arrest.
Jackson was escorted out of Belleville police headquarters Wednesday afternoon wearing an orange, jail jumpsuit. She hid her face from the cameras waiting for her and softly sobbed. She didn’t answer questions about the other victims in this case: her kids. She has five between the ages of 5 and 18, and both police and those who know her well says she lied to them, too.
“The kids were told that there mother was dying of cancer,” Jen told reporters. They were told that daily. She would lay on the couch. She was too sick to attend some of their sporting events. She was too sick to attend her oldest’s graduation two weeks ago.”
Hardened police investigators say that was one of the toughest facts to stomach in this case.
“Her kids believed her story which is the unfortunate and tragic part of this case,” Det. Sgt. Mark Heffernan of the Belleville Police said. “Her kids are victims in this in my mind.”
There are plenty of other victims in the Belleville area, some of whom were waiting for Jackson in the courthouse hallway as she exited in shackles.
“Look at me!” an irate Amanda Tabor shouted as Jackson covered her fact. “Tell me why Alissa! Why did you do this to me?!”
Tabor had organized a fundraiser earlier this year in Jackson’s hometown of New Athens.
“I’m mad,” she said a few minutes after the confrontation. “Basically I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m disgusted. I don’t see how somebody could do this.”
Those funds, and others raised through sales and benefits topped $30 thousand according to police. But those close to the “Alissa’s Army” fundraising group say there was much more than just that cash.
“People were bringing food and groceries three times a week,” Jen told us. “They were given a romantic getaway, Melissa and Brandon. They were given a minivan.”
They were also given the support of Chris Allsup, a real cancer patient. Allsup was at the center of Team Chris, a group that blossomed in St. Clair County, raising money and giving help until Allsup’s death in January. Allsup’s twin sister, Pat, says Chris devoted energy to helping Jackson up to her last days alive.
“I didn’t know my sister was on her death bed. It’s just hard to believe,” Pat said.
And after Chris’ death, Pat kept helping Alissa Jackson as she recovered from her own loss. She helped throw a benefit “prom” for Jackson last month, who said she never got to attend her own.
“Basically after my sister’s passing we all embraced Alissa because she’s like the last one. We all felt like we wanted to help her.”
She also answered a somewhat strange request from Jackson.
“She even asked for my sister’s medication, what she had left. And I was like here, take it all. I was just trying to help out.”
In the midst of all the disappointment and rage around her, Alissa Jackson said nothing. Her only supporters in the crowd of people were her husband, and a woman others there identified as her mother in-law.
The woman did not give her name, but told FOX2, “I talked to her. I loved her. That’s all that matters.”
Asked if she had anything to say to those who donated money, she only said, “God bless them.”
As for Jackson’s husband, it’s unclear whether he knew the true story of what was happening. Jen, the tipster, refused to comment when asked if Brandon Jackson knew the truth.
As for police, Det. Sgt. Heffernan said, “I’m not gonna comment on her husband at this point. The investigation continues and we’re going to look at all angles.”
Alissa Jackson is being held in the St. Clair County Jail on $100,000 bond.