EDITORIAL – Jacobs case shows offenders can’t rest

Published 12:01 am Thursday, August 29, 2019

The long arm of the law got longer this week, at least for Daniel Andrew MacGinnis.

It extended not only from Texas to California but also across the ages, three decades back, to Oct. 6, 1988, when the remains of Patricia Ann Jacobs, who was sexually assaulted and drowned, were recovered in the Neches River near Old Ferry Road in Port Arthur.

That’s why MacGinnis, now 60, remained in the Jefferson County jail Wednesday. It’s why he was indicted this week and why bond was set at a million dollars. Police believe they have their man, although only a court can determine his guilt or innocence.

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When the married woman, 36, from Silsbee did not return from an Oct. 5, 1988, evening meeting at the Silver Spur Tavern in Hardin County, her husband searched fruitlessly for her, an affidavit said, finding only her truck in the bar’s parking lot.

Later, her body was found in the river, where authorities said she’d sustained a blow to the head and injuries to her face before she was drowned. It was a cruel and likely terrifying way to die.

MacGinnis, then 29, was interviewed and ID’d as a suspect then, but investigators could not link the suspect to the victim. MacGinnis denied knowing Jacobs, denied abducting her, denied knowledge of the location from where she was abducted.

Authorities from the Texas Rangers, the state of California, Hardin County Sheriff’s Office and Port Arthur could not solve the case. Not then. But they believe they have now.

Almost a year ago, family members of the victim contacted Texas Rangers and asked for an update.

Thirty-one years was not enough to make them forget the crime or the victim.

State and Port Arthur investigators determined that the Texas Department of Public Public Safety’s crime lab had not tested Jacobs’ clothing for DNA; on June 26, they learned that DNA had been matched to that of a registered and convicted sex offender — MacGinnis.

Further investigation, including an interview in Tyler County, Texas, convinced authorities that MacGinnis was the killer.

Unfortunately, the technology that now links MacGinnis to the victim was not available in 1988, when the murder was committed. Thankfully, it is now.

That’s why the victim’s family may finally get the closure they have sought, why the victim may get the justice she deserves and why the public’s safety may have improved as the case was cleared by arrest.

There’s a long way to travel before conviction and sentence. Every accused person deserves the presumption of innocence. Prosecutors must prove their case.

But this case should remind would-be criminal offenders that law enforcement does not necessarily rest on closed cases, that when offenders commit crimes, they must always look over their shoulder. Something may be gaining on them.