Lynnwood woman charged with letting disabled daughter starve to death

In 2020, police found a decaying body in the apartment of Jacqueline Hawkins, 56, new court papers say.


LYNNWOOD — A woman has been charged with first-degree manslaughter for abandoning her disabled daughter in a Lynnwood apartment and leaving her to starve to death.

Jacqueline Hawkins, 56, and her daughter Nikole, 19, lived together until 2020, when the mother left, according to charging papers filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.

In May 2020, Lynnwood police were called to a death investigation at Hawkins’ apartment, deputy prosecutor Bob Langbehn wrote.

Officers arrived to find the residence in “extremely poor condition,” the charges say, with scattered fans and air-scent products placed throughout in an apparent attempt to mask odors.

In the living room, there was a small, soiled mattress covered with a comforter and an absorbent pad. On top lay Hawkins’ daughter, deceased. Her body was in a “significant state of decomposition,” Langbehn wrote.

The body was transported to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.

Back at the apartment, officers interviewed Hawkins. She reportedly told them she was her daughter’s sole care provider and would feed her through a tube in her stomach three times a day.

“She did this herself without any assistance from medical personnel,” the charges say, “and admitted that she could not remember the last time she had taken her daughter to see a doctor.”

Hawkins reportedly told police her daughter’s father lives in Virginia. She and the father chose not to involve the “medical community” in their daughter’s care since moving to Washington in 2007.

The defendant noticed her daughter was losing a lot of weight, she reportedly told police, but chose not to take her to a doctor. She claimed she fed her daughter on the morning of May 12, 2020, then left the apartment that afternoon. When she returned home two hours later, she reportedly told police, she discovered her daughter had died. Hawkins told police she called her husband and told him.

“The defendant admitted that they did not call anyone upon the discovery of their dead daughter,” the charges say, “and claimed that it was part of their culture to mourn the dead first.”

Yet an autopsy performed by Medical Examiner Dr. Matthew Lacy indicated “several weeks” of starvation and dehydration preceded the daughter’s death. There also were other indications that the daughter had been dead for at least a week, possibly longer.

Lacy determined her causes of death were dehydration and starvation, and her manner of death was homicide.

The medical examiner obtained the victim’s medical records as part of his examination. Records showed she was born in 2000 in Glendale, California. She was immediately diagnosed with severe brain damage and placed in intensive care for multiple weeks. She was blind, deaf, mostly non-verbal and completely immobile.

She required constant care to survive, the charges say.

Hawkins reportedly moved to Virginia after her daughter’s death. Detectives traveled there to interview her and her husband.

The defendant reportedly told detectives Nikole was born with an incurable medical condition that left her in a “vegetative” state. She and her husband learned how to feed and care for her, in the hospital and when an in-home care nurse visited after the daughter was released.

Hawkins said she had not adjusted the amount of formula she fed her daughter in the past 18 years, the charges say, nor had she ever taken her to visit a doctor.

When the defendant noticed the victim was losing a lot of weight, she reportedly told detectives, she gave her daughter Vitamin C to “treat it.”

Employment records showed Hawkins worked at Fred Meyer Jewelers in the years before her daughter’s death. She reportedly voluntarily left that job in early 2020.

During the death investigation, detectives interviewed former coworkers of the defendant who reported Hawkins claimed she had sued the doctors associated with the victim’s birth, the prosecutor wrote, and had won $25 million from the lawsuit but had given the money to charity as she believed it was “blood money.”

Hawkins also reportedly told coworkers she had hired full-time nurses to care for her daughter while she was at work. Detectives found no evidence the claim was true, according to the charges.

Further investigation into the defendant’s finances showed her husband was employed. Records reportedly showed Hawkins had not paid taxes in over seven years, had delinquent rent payments and gambled often.

“The defendant was also a frequent player at the local casinos where she would spend thousands of dollars at a time,” the charges say.

Detectives obtained receipts from local businesses indicating Hawkins had bought infant formula, diapers and feeding tubes for Nikole.

In 2019, records show, the defendant applied for a job as a nursing assistant with a home-care company. On her application, Hawkins reportedly mentioned her daughter.

“She is grade 4 — bed ridden category,” the defendant wrote.

Hawkins completed certificate training programs for the job in January 2020, the charges say. Those trainings included care such as ambulation, bed positioning, eating, toilet use, dressing, bathing, skin care, medical assistance and meal preparation.

The investigation reportedly confirmed the defendant had the financial means and knowledge to care for her daughter.

“The worsening condition of the victim would have been readily apparent to her and appeared to be due entirely to a lack of proper feeding and care,” Langbehn wrote. “Despite this, the defendant did not contact anyone that could have saved the victim’s life.”

The prosecutor did not object to Hawkins remaining out of custody on a promise to appear at her next court date.

An arraignment hearing was set for June 15.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486;; Twitter: @reporterellen.

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