Man accused of killing Rockford mom, three kids, will represent himself at trial

Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 6:28 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The man accused of killing four people in Rockford nearly seven years ago will represent himself when his quadruple murder trial begins next week at the Winnebago County Justice Center.

Prosecutors say that on Sept. 17, 2016, Eric Jackson, 40, fatally stabbed 27-year-old Keandra Austin after a dispute then set her house on fire. Austin’s three children, ages 9, 6 and 6 months, died in the blaze.

“We don’t want to go through this, but we do want justice for the Austin family,” said Jessica Snyder, Keandra Austin’s lifelong friend.

Snyder says sitting in on Jackson’s trial won’t be easy.

“Those kids didn’t get a chance to grow up,” she said. “They didn’t get a chance to go to school. “It’s been very, very hard.”

During his last pre-trial hearing Wednesday, Jackson asked Judge Brendan Maher to call Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock as a witness because he claims Rock influenced testimony against him.

“I am not going to prevent you from calling him,” Maher told Jackson. “He’s on your witness list.”

The judge warned Jackson that because he’s not a lawyer, calling Rock, former Winnebago County prosecutor, may not end in his favor.

“You’re at risk of that person saying the exact opposite of what you think they’re going to say,” Maher said.

Snyder says however next week’s trial ends, it’s only the beginning of the healing process.

“There will never be enough closure,” she said. “But we need something.”

Jackson said Wednesday that he wants to call Mike Rock because he claims Rock offered a man he was prosecuting in another case in exchange for testifying against him.

Jackson’s trial is scheduled for 9 a.m., June 12, in Courtroom D at the Winnebago County Justice Center.