Bond Set at $2 Million for Man Charged in Hartford Mother's Death

Police said they found blood in a van that matched the DNA of Tashauna Jackson.

The man accused of killing a 23-year-old Hartford mother found dead in Bloomfield last week appeared in court on Monday, where bond was set at $2 million.

Robert Lee Graham, 59, of East Harold Street in Hartford, was arrested Friday night and charged with murdering Tashauna Jackson.

Police said they found Graham hiding in the attic of his Hartford home around 11:30 p.m. Friday and took him into custody.

Jackson, the mother of a 5-year-old, vanished Aug. 11 after getting into Graham's pickup near Keney Park in Hartford, police said. Her body was found 30 feet into the woods off Granby Street in Bloomfield a week after her disappearance.

"She was a very long young lady. She was full of life. She was full of life because she had a long ways to go, and he took that from her," said Perez. "there's a mother that lost a child and there's a child that lost a mother."

Family members told NBC Connecticut police found Graham's DNA under Jackson's fingernails. Jackson told her mother a year before her disappearance that she would scratch anyone who tried to hurt her, according to court documents.

"He's a master manipulator and he thought he was going to get away with this," said Jackson's aunt, Ana Perez.

According to the warrant for his arrest, Graham called police Aug. 13 to report that people were accusing him of harming Jackson and having something to do with her disappearance.

During that call, he granted police permission to search his house. Police said there were no signs of a struggle at Graham's home. A cadaver dog searched Graham's truck Aug. 13 but found no evidence.

Officers met Graham face to face when he agreed to go to the police station.

During the interview, he told police he and Jackson had been in an intimate relationship for several years and that he last saw her Aug. 11 on Barbour Street, when he gave her $160 to pay rent.

Witnesses said they Jackson get into Graham's black pickup truck that day. Graham denied giving Jackson a ride or having any information about what happened to her, according to the warrant.

Police noted that Graham had a scratch on his neck and a chest injury. When officers asked him about it, Graham said he was hurt in a car crash in New Jersey weeks earlier, the warrant says.

On the same day, Hartford police found Graham's smashed-up silver Honda Odyssey parked in a driveway on Edgewood Street. A family member told police Graham had abandoned it there, according to the arrest warrant.

When police asked Graham about the van, he lied and said it was in New Jersey, then asked for a lawyer, according to court documents. Days later, on Aug. 18, Graham contacted police, gave them permission to search the van and said he did not want an attorney after all.

That was the day police found Jackson's body.

Investigators searching Graham's van found pools of blood in the back hatch. DNA testing matched the blood to Jackson's body, and police obtained a warrant for Graham's arrest.

Defense attorney Deron Freeman said there is little evidence that ties Graham to the murder.

"He cooperated with the police. He went down to give a statement. He allowed them to search his vehicle and take his vehicles. He allowed them to search his house," Freeman said.

Police said Graham has an extensive criminal record, including convictions for murder, four counts of first-degree assault, two counts of first-degree rape. two counts of second-degree assault, risk of injury, threatening and assault on an officer. 

Graham's attorney, however, disputes that record.

"They should have never let him out again, never, never," said Jackson's brother, William Santiago.

Graham appeared in court on Monday, where bail was set at $2 million. He is due back in court Sept. 14.

Jackson will be laid to rest at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 27 at Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Hartford. A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for her funeral expenses.

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