1977: Money, murder and cameras in court: inside the infamous Marjorie Jackson murder trial

Posted at 9:44 AM, Dec 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-07 11:59:39-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the most sensational murder trials in Indiana came to an end 40 years ago this week. That's when Howard Willard was convicted of killing multimillionaire heiress Marjorie Jackson during an attempted robbery at her home in Indianapolis.

Marjorie Jackson was the widow of Standard Grocery president Chester Jackson. Upon his death in 1970, Jackson inherited about $14 million. Over the next few years, Jackson began withdrawing money from area banks, storing the cash in her home on Spring Mill Road.

Eventually word of this practice got out and Jackson became the victim of multiple burglaries.  

On May 2, 1977, Howard Willard and Manuel Lee Robinson burglarized Jackson's house, prosecutors said at the time. They made off with about $800,000 worth of jewelry and cash. Two days later, the duo returned.

However, this burglary attempt would turn deadly when the men encountered Jackson inside her home. She was shot and killed. Willard and Robinson then attempted to cover up her death by starting a fire inside the home.

It wasn't until several days later that Jackson's body was discovered along with about $5 million in cash still inside the home.

Investigators got a break in the case when Howard Willard and his former wife, Marjorie Pollitt, tried to buy a motor home in Arizona with all cash. Willard was arrested and extradited back to Indiana to stand trial in the death of Marjorie Jackson.

It would be the first major case in Indiana in which video recording was allowed inside the courtroom. However, it was short-lived. The Indiana Supreme Court intervened and recording was disallowed after a few days.

Jurors found Howard Willard guilty in the death of Marjorie Jackson in December of 1977. He was sentenced to life in prison. Manuel Robinson was found not guilty of murder and robbery, but was convicted on several other charges. Politt was sentenced to five years.

To this day, it's not clear how much money was stolen or whether it was all recovered.

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