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This story won first place for the 2002 Texas Associated Press Managing Editors award in the category of “Breaking News”

TOWN READY TO MOVE ON
Times Record News
Category: Page 1
Published: 07/18/2002
Page: A1
Town ready to move on
Byline: Daniel Bartel, Times Record News


NOCONA - The dust had settled. People could finally get on with their lives again.

Then on Tuesday, the Montague County grand jury issued an indictment, and all the emotions suddenly came rushing back.

After a year-and-half-long investigation, former Nocona General Hospital nurse Vickie Dawn Jackson has been indicted in murders of at least four hospital patients and implicated in the deaths of 16 more, according to District Attorney Tim Cole.

Mayor Paul Gibbs, owner of Gibbs Drug Store, said he was intimately acquainted with some of those believed to be victims.

"We had a bit of a lull there during the investigation," he said. "But the pain and memories have come back again."

Several Nocona residents were concerned the incident would leave a stain on the town.

Murder is not the type of advertising a small town needs, said restaurant owner Robert Fenoglio, alluding to other infamous episodes associated with Montague County such as the 1996 Heather Rich murder.

Nonetheless, Fenoglio has left his "I (love) Nocona General" bumper sticker in place on the outside window of his restaurant.

"It's disappointing what happened," he said. "But I still think we're lucky enough to have a hospital with such good doctors."

Other residents said Nocona has bounced back from tragedy before. The Nocona General Hospital murders would be another example of its resilience.

"It's been a big blow to us," said Tom Horn, director of the Nocona Economic Development Corp. "But we'll carry on with the memories of the people who passed away."

Now that Jackson has been indicted, many Nocona residents question whether the crime fits her character. 

Nocona residents who had contact with Jackson describe her as a quiet type.

Jerry Miller, owner of The Salon in Nocona, said he knew Jackson through his son, who attended Nocona High School.

Miller said he was shocked by the grand jury's indictment.

"I know she had nothing to gain by doing it," Miller said.

Gibbs said he crossed paths with Jackson infrequently. Most of their conversations were over the phone when Jackson called to order patient medication.

"She was a competent nurse," Gibbs said. "She took good notes."

Paul Duckworth, owner of a Nocona barbershop, used to cut Jackson's husband's hair and described Vickie Jackson as "just a hair off normal."

"Both of them were real quiet," he said.

Whether Jackson is guilty of murder has yet to be determined. However, Nocona residents said they're thankful the indictment has lifted the cloud of suspicion.

For about a month after state and federal agent took over the investigation of the hospital, everyone in town was a suspect, Gibbs said.

"There was a definite air of anxiety," he said.

Much of the buzz over the hospital deaths had been laid to rest the last few months. However, new information will most likely cause a new wave of speculation, Gibbs said.

It might be a long time until the matter is fully resolved, he said.

When that happens it will provide a sense of relief for the community, especially for families who lost loved ones.

"It's been fairly consuming for them," Gibbs said. "They want a swift and efficient trial so they can get on with their lives."