Camden, N.J. Bruce Jackson walked into court Friday with a swagger, 15 inches taller and nearly 100 pounds heavier than the 45-pound teenager found foraging through a trash can for food less than two and a half years ago.
With anger in his still high-pitched voice, the 21-year-old took the stand to confront the woman he and his three adoptive brothers say went for years denying them not just food, but the chance to grow up like normal kids.
"You were mean to me for my whole life," Jackson told his adoptive mother, Vanessa Jackson, before she was sentenced to seven years in prison for child endangerment. "You took my childhood. I'm so disappointed I will never get that back."
It was the first time Bruce Jackson and his younger brothers had appeared in public since their ordeal became national news in October 2003. All four are thin, but nothing like the gaunt figures investigators found after a neighbor spotted Bruce rummaging through the garbage.
The three younger brothers, testifying in videos they had recorded before the sentencing, spoke of being accused of stealing when they went into the kitchen to get food, being beaten with belts and shoes, and being given meals such as dry oatmeal and tonic water.
Vanessa Jackson sat motionless through the 2 1/2-hour court proceeding and didn't speak.
Bruce Jackson, who spent 12 years under Vanessa Jackson's care, told about how he and his adoptive brothers were forced to sit on stairs in the family's Collingswood houses while the Jacksons' biological children, two adopted daughters and foster daughter were allowed to lead more normal lives.
Vanessa Jackson struck a plea deal with prosecutors in November, admitting guilt to one charge of child endangerment and agreeing to a prison term of up to seven years. She could be eligible for parole in about two years.