For nearly two years, Alissa Jackson of Belleville, Ill., told people she was going to die from ovarian cancer, leaving her five children motherless.
On Thursday, she admitted in court she never had cancer at all, but accepted the meals, money and a minivan from those who wanted to help her. Authorities said about $35,000 was raised on her behalf.
Jackson, 32, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft of more than $500 by deception.
Jackson could ask for probation when she is sentenced on Jan. 28, but St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said he might ask for the maximum of five years in prison.
Jackson sat before Circuit Judge Jan Fiss. Her hair was darker and reached below her shoulders, far different from the close cropped hair she had when she was arrested. Jackson entered the plea to the two felony counts as she sat next to her attorney, Patrick Kilgore, waiving a right to a trial.
Patricia Allsup, who’s twin sister Chris died from cancer, attended the hearing. Allsup raised $1,386 from a fundraiser at JR’s Tavern in Belleville. Allsup staged a prom, sold tickets and carnations to help defer some of Jackson’s medical costs.
What she did was so wrong.
Patricia Allsup, who helped raise money to assist Alissa Jackson
“The big day is coming on Jan. 28. We’ll find out then,” Allsup said after Jackson’s court appearance. “What she did was so wrong.”
It was October 2013 when Jackson first told Jenn Huelsmann she had Stage IV ovarian cancer. She said the cancer was terminal.
Huelsmann, whose children went to school with Jackson’s children at Belle Valley in Belleville, and others started raising money for the family. Spaghetti dinners, raffle tickets, Internet funding sites, parties, T-shirt sales and silent auctions were organized. The family was mostly given the proceeds in cash or cashier’s checks, Kelly said.
A California couple donated their 2007 Honda Odyssey minivan to teach their children about the importance of helping those in need.
Huelsmann became suspicious in April 2014 when she noticed that Jackson’s health didn’t decline. She hired an O’Fallon private investigator who checked into the claims and advised Huelsmann to go to the police.
Belleville Detectives Mark Heffernan and Karl Kraft visited Jackson’s home and she told them her cancer had spread to her kidneys and brain. During that visit, Jackson agreed to sign a medical records release.
When the records came back, there was no mention of cancer.
Kraft and Heffernan returned to Jackson’s residence in May 2014.
“You don’t have cancer, do you?” Kraft reportedly asked Jackson.
“No,” she said.
During a later phone call with some of her supporters, Jackson confessed she did not have cancer.
“She told them that she did not have any friends and she liked being a part of something,” Kelly said.