BRIDGE CITY, Texas — Bridge City Police now say they anticipate charging an Orange County man in connection with the hit-and-run-death of a bicyclist nearly a year after the fact.
In October 2020 Jerrod Lee Watkins, 24, of Orange, was charged with intoxication manslaughter in the June 2020 death of Jillian Blanchard according to file stories.
At 3:06 a.m. on a Saturday morning along FM 1442 in Bridge City, Blanchard, 20 , of Port Neches, was killed when the Nissan Altima she was driving was struck head-on by a Ford F-150 pick up truck.
Watkins “was immediately identified as the driver of the pickup, as he was still inside the truck at the time officers arrived on the scene,” Friday’s news release reported.
He was taken to the hospital that morning according to file stories.
About four minutes later police were notified that Robert Jackson, 45, of Bridge City, had been struck by a vehicle in the 400 block of Ferry Drive according to file stories.
Jackson also died at the scene.
Investigators did not learn until later that the two fatal wrecks, six miles apart, may have been connected Friday’s release said.
Watkins was charged in Blanchard’s death about four months later and released on a $100,000 bond the same day he was arrested last year.
While he was charged in the wreck that killed Blanchard he has not been officially named in connection with Jackson’s death until today.
Bridge City Police now say that evidence collected at the scene of Jackson’s death is a possible match to the F-150 pickup Watkins was found inside at the other wreck.
“In both cases, the same vehicle, a Ford F-150, pickup was driven by Jarrod Lee Watkins,” the Friday release said.
Police are awaiting the results of forensic testing at the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratories in Houston and Austin that could prove that.
They say once testing is completed they do anticipate filing charges against Watkins for the death of Robert Jackson.
Jackson's widow, Mandi Jackson, appeared before the Bridge City city council on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, and made an impassioned pleas to officials for justice in her husband's death.
A video on Facebook of her speaking was watched nearly 40,000 times as she cried while speaking saying that she was never contacted about her husband's death but learned of it on social media.
“There are no words that could ever comfort the families of Robert Jackson and Jillian Blanchard, but our thoughts and prayers are always with them as we continue to investigate and push for the highest possible criminal charges in the prosecution of both cases,” the news release said.
From a Bridge City Police Department news release…
The tragic deaths of Robert Jackson and Jillian Blanchard have shocked and outraged our community. Given the grievous nature of these crimes, we must investigate both cases as thoroughly and as carefully as we would any murder under the laws of the State of Texas.
In both cases, the same vehicle, a Ford F-150, pickup was driven by Jarrod Lee Watkins.
In the case involving the death of Jillian Blanchard, Jarrod Watkins was immediately identified as the driver of the pickup, as he was still inside the truck at the time officers arrived on the scene. What investigators did not learn until later was that the same pickup was potentially involved in the crash that killed Robert Jackson.
Preliminary evidence collected by investigators at the scene of Mr. Jackson's death indicated that the truck involved in that accident was a possible match to the F-150 located at the Blanchard crash site. Forensic testing is currently being conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratories in Houston and Austin to confirm that Jarrod Watkins's truck was the same vehicle that struck and killed Mr. Jackson. Once all testing is completed, we anticipate that additional charges will be filed against Jarrod Watkins for the death of Robert Jackson.
There are no words that could ever comfort the families of Robert Jackson and Jillian Blanchard, but our thoughts and prayers are always with them as we continue to investigate and push for the highest possible criminal charges in the prosecution of both cases. Our department shares their hope that justice will be done for both Jillian and Robert.