Murder? How an Accident Became Murder

Jackson Family Doubts and a Media Frenzy

Tito Jackson and his three sons with Delores “Dee Dee” Jackson questioned the police and District Attorney’s conclusion that Dee Dee Jackson drowned by accident. The Jackson family did not believe Dee Dee Jackson had been swimming, since, they said, she was terrified of the water and could not swim.

Tito Jackson later said, “Drown? What was she doing in the water? You know, ‘cause Dee Dee and I, neither of us swam.”

Donald J. Bohana said he had been teaching Delores “Dee Dee” Jackson to swim.

“I’ll go to my grave saying that she could swim because Delores could swim,” Bohana told 20/20.

Donald Bohana said Dee Dee Jackson kept several swimsuits at his house. He said the police took one swimsuit during their investigation. One of Dee Dee Jackson’s sons supported Donald Bohana’s story. In the police report about the accident, Taj Jackson said his mother had told him “she was trying to learn to swim and Mr. Bohana was teaching her.”

Donald Bohana said the bruises and scrapes on Dee Dee Jackson’s body were caused by his drunken attempts to get her body out of the pool, including using the pool cleaning pole. The cement surrounding the pool also did not make for a good landing place when he was finally able to get her out of the pool.

Jackson Campaign to Convict Donald J.  Bohana

After the accidental death ruling, the Jackson family hired attorney Brian Oxman, who filed a civil wrongful death suit on August 16, 1995 against Donald J. Bohana on behalf of Dee Dee Jackson’s three sons. On August 25, 1995, the Jackson’s filed an adversary complaint against Donald J. Bohana for wrongful death. The complaint was dismissed.

Undeterred, Brian Oxman waged a media campaign to pressure the District Attorney to charge Donald J. Bohana with murder. The police and district attorney had found no motive for Dee Dee Jackson’s death. Oxman devised one; he claimed that Donald J. Bohana was in financial trouble, asked Dee Dee Jackson for help and, when she refused, became enraged and murdered her. The police and Lori Jones, the district attorney’s prosecutor who handled the case against Bohana, found no evidence that Bohana had any such financial difficulties or had ever asked Dee Dee Jackson for money. Donald Bohana may, in fact, have been giving money to help support Dee Dee Jackson.

To bolster his story, Oxman claimed that Bohana had a history of violence against women. Oxman claimed that the police had been to Bohana’s house at least a dozen times in response to 911 calls from former girlfriends claiming domestic violence. The lead police investigator said that the few calls to the Bohana house had been noise complaints related to parties. He found no evidence that any former girlfriends of Bohana had ever called about any violent behavior.

A New Prosecutor: An Accident Becomes Murder

In 1996, Lori Jones was a new, young prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. Focused on the potentially high-profile case, she sent experts back to the scene of the accident. The experts said they doubted Donald J. Bohana’s account of Dee Dee Jackson’s death.

“When we got all of those additional reports, we took it back to the L.A. county coroner (Posey), and he changed his opinion,” Jones said.

In September 1996, two years after Dee Dee Jackson’s death, Dr. David Posey changed his conclusion about how Dee Dee Jackson died from “undetermined” to “homicide-assisted drowning” on his own misspelled letterhead, “Posey Consulant,” not the county’s letterhead, since he was no longer working for the county.
When he changed his conclusion, Posey had also been retained by the Jackson family as a paid expert for their civil suit against Don Bohana.

In March 1997, almost three years after Dee Dee Jackson drowned, the district attorney charged Donald James Bohana with second-degree murder. The Jackson family had pressured the District Attorney’s office into changing an accident into murder and to charge an innocent man with murder.