Friends Seek Justice For Jessica

Courtesy photo/McDonald County Press Jessica McCormack

Jessica McCormack's murder doesn't make any sense. The 25-year-old's partially-clothed body was discovered in a suitcase near Noel in late July. She was identified through dental records. Since her murder three months ago, her friends continue to search for answers.

McCormack was a beautiful soul who brought people together, friends say. Life wasn't easy for her, but she showed an unending love for all people, said her best friend, Megan Bailey.

"I don't want her remembered as the woman in the suitcase that was just thrown away," Bailey said, "but how she loved everyone. It didn't matter what race, what religion, she freakin' loved you."

McCormack's death has spurred her friends to fight for justice. They seek answers. They want to know why their beloved friend was taken, leaving behind three young daughters. Bailey said the pain of losing McCormack is still intense.

She misses their daily chats and texts. She misses the woman who was like an aunt to her own three children.

"It's been three months that she's been gone," Bailey said. "It still hurts as much as the first day. I still wake up in the morning and think, 'Maybe I'll get a message from Jess today.'"

McCormack Goes Missing

Her best friend knew something was wrong right away. The two, who were soul sisters, had known each other for about three years. The two had no secrets.

"She knew me and I knew her," Bailey said.

McCormack and her children were over at Bailey's house on July 14. McCormack played with Bailey's children. When Bailey didn't hear from McCormack on July 15, she became worried. "(But) murder wasn't my first thought. I thought she needed to get away."

McCormack had left for a few days in June, Bailey said. She was simply tired of all the fighting with Mahamud Tooxoow Mahamed, her husband, whom Bailey refers to as "Tito."

Bailey said the two were not married by law but through their Muslim culture. However, Bailey said McCormack and Ibraham Akfeen, who is the father of her youngest child, had planned to make a fresh start in St. Louis.

McCormack and Bailey had planned for McCormack and her three children to come live with Bailey, her husband and their children until Akfeen could pick them up.

"To go to St. Louis was her ultimate plan," Bailey said. "He was going to pick up Jessica and the girls that morning (the 16th). He loved her and was going to come back for her."

Ongoing fighting and domestic disputes with Mahamed, however, colored McCormack's world.

"She told me, 'If I end up dead one day, Tito is going to be the reason,'" Bailey said. "She wanted to come visit. She was tired of all the fighting. It was an ongoing, everyday battle. Their relationship was very tumultuous. It was hardly ever good."

Bailey encouraged her to break it off with Mahamed. The ups and downs of McCormack and Mahamed's relationship took their toll.

Why didn't she leave?

"She was scared," Bailey said. "She wanted some sense of normalcy for her girls. She said, 'I'm going to keep trying because there's something good in him.'"

A friend of theirs called a few days prior to July 15 to do a welfare check, Bailey said. Then, on July 16, Bailey received a call from Akfeen, who said he had received an alarming phone call from someone else. That person heard a lot of fighting in the apartment.

Bailey went to McCormack's apartment on July 16 but could not get her or anyone to answer the door.

"I was screaming her name. I felt in my heart something was wrong. I got a crowbar and tried to pop the door open," she said.

She then contacted the Noel Marshal's Office and went with officers for four hours, trying to get someone to answer McCormack's door.

Various sounds led Bailey and officers to believe someone was in the apartment. Noises ranged from hearing a dog inside to hearing movement like someone was there. Officers heard something that sounded like someone telling someone else to be quiet.

At one point, a movie was playing, officers told Bailey. No one would answer the door. Bailey and officers could not get the door to open. The door opened out, not in, she said.

Bailey said some "drug addicts" -- people that McCormack knew -- are the ones who last saw McCormack on July 16. They told Bailey they saw her that morning of July 16, at about 6 in the morning.

The addicts had spent the night in McCormack's apartment, but she had kicked them out the next morning, Bailey said. Bailey also believes that a fight ensued between McCormack and Mahamed later that day. That's what prompted a neighbor to call Afkeen, who then called Bailey, she said.

"After I was there, she was never seen."

From there, Bailey began to message and call McCormack numerous times.

"I blew up her Facebook messenger," she said.

The next day, on July 17, she received two Facebook messages through Messenger in a span of 10 minutes.

"It alerted me even more," Bailey said. "It did not sound like her."

Charges filed

So far, charges have been filed against one man. Those charges only include kidnapping at this time.

Mahamed, 37, a Somali national, was charged in a criminal complaint filed Aug. 13 in the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Mo., according to information provided by the Justice Department. Mahamed is not in federal custody and is a fugitive from justice.

According to the Justice Department, the former Noel man is charged with kidnapping McCormack's 4-year-old daughter.

Mahamed is out of the country and was last known to be in the Mexico and Guatemala area, said McDonald County Sheriff Michael Hall. Mahamed recently posted on his Facebook account that he's back in Somalia.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department have said they will not extradite a non-naturalized citizen, Hall said.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the federal criminal complaint, the body of Jessica McCormack, of Noel, was discovered on July 29, near Missouri Highway 59 between Lanagan and Noel. McCormack was seen alive, the affidavit says, on July 16 when officers responded to a call at her residence.

Also present in the residence were Mahamed, who was identified as McCormack's paramour, and McCormack's three daughters, identified in court documents as Jane Doe 1 (4 years old), Jane Doe 2 (2 years old), and Jane Doe 3 (6 months old). Jane Doe 2 is Mahamed's daughter.

In McDonald County, investigators are still actively working on the murder case and looking for additional information. Noel Marshal Randy Wilson said the Noel Marshal's Office is not part of the investigation. Hall said the McDonald County Sheriff's Office is handling the investigation, with the FBI assisting.

Hall referred any specific questions about McCormack's last appearance to the Noel Marshal's Office, as it was not McDonald County deputies who responded to the call, he said.

Wilson said he believed former Marshal Paul Gardner may have responded to the call on that morning of July 16 and could have been the one to see McCormack then. Wilson said he didn't really know because he was not present.

He did, however, say that he went to the McCormack home that afternoon or early evening. He was off-duty at Noel and officially on-duty at Lanagan, but went to the McCormack residence to make contact.

They did not make contact with anyone, Wilson said.

Three weeks later, McCormack's body was discovered and her three children could not be located. An Amber Alert was issued for McCormack's three children, who were located at a residence in Des Moines, Iowa. They were taken into state custody on Aug. 8. According to the affidavit, a woman who formerly worked with Mahamed at the Tyson plant in Noel told law enforcement officers that Mahamed arrived at her Des Moines residence with the children on Aug. 5. She discovered he had left on Aug. 8, the affidavit says, when she found a note from Mahamed informing her that he could not care for the children.

Investigators confirmed with the father of McCormack's oldest child that Mahamed did not have his consent to take Jane Doe 1 outside the state of Missouri. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller is serving as the prosecutor of the case.

Investigators are speaking with witnesses and trying to ferret facts from gossip, Hall said. Sheriff's Department staff also hopes that lab results will shed some light on the case. After obtaining a search warrant, several items were obtained from McCormack's residence and are currently at the lab, Hall said.

"We hope to confirm what we already believe," Hall said.

In September, Hall said Mahamed was a person of interest, due to the number of domestic violence calls involving the couple. In McDonald County, Mahamed also still faces two felony charges from 2017, against another woman in Noel. He is charged with one count of sodomy in the second degree and one charge of unlawful use of a weapon.

Court records show that his pre-trial date has been continued numerous times.

A warrant was served on April 5, 2018, for his failure to appear and a bond amount set for $10,000, according to court records.

A court date has been set for Nov. 19 before Judge Gregory Stremel.

One of McCormack's friends, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said friends have their own theories about their friend's murder but don't know anything concrete. The friend said she's concerned about having her name plastered across news accounts. She, too, is trying to uncover information. She's also worried about her safety.

"She would have given somebody anything they needed, to make their life better," one of her friends said. "So I don't see what they could gain from her death when she was helping us all out while alive."

"She knew what it was like to feel lonely and like nobody was in your corner. She didn't want others to feel that way."

McCormack's friend isn't exactly sure when McCormack went missing. Investigators say that McCormack was missing for three weeks before being discovered.

So how could a person go missing for three weeks before others suspected any foul play? Hall said he couldn't comment on that.

But one of McCormack's friends said they were led to believe that nothing was amiss.

"Because we were still being messaged off of her account. We had no reason to believe that she was dead when she was still messaging us," her friend said. "I don't see why else they would message us posing as her, which makes it really confusing to know when exactly she went missing and how long we were talking to 'Jessica' who wasn't actually Jessica," she said.

Hall said he couldn't comment on if one person acted independently or if the murder was a group effort.

Though McCormack couldn't be accounted for during that three-week span, Bailey really hoped that McCormack had escaped for a few days away.

Bailey was extremely worried. She prayed that McCormack had tried to get out of the scary situation in which she found herself.

Lack of action by the Noel Marshal's Office actually catapulted the situation into a completely different mode, Bailey said.

"The Noel Marshal's Office did nothing," Bailey said. "If they had been proactive, Jessica would still be here. I think they thought, 'Jessica and Tito are fighting again.'"

Bailey said she believes Mahamed was helped by his family and his tribe.

"I think they all helped him get away."

Memories of McCormack

McCormack's friends are determined to let others know how kind she was. They grieve, wondering why a young mother would be murdered.

Her friends say that comments posted on social media tend to criticize McCormack for having multiple fathers for her three daughters. Others criticize her for being with a Somalian and being a Muslim.

"What happened to Jessica, it wasn't fair. It wasn't deserved. Whoever killed her, they left three beautiful girls without a mother. So we do want to know what happened and why," her friend said.

"We -- her friends and her family -- we're grieving. We shouldn't have to couple it with defending who she was as a person also."

"No matter what was going on in her life, she was always selfless and wanted to make sure others were OK before worrying about herself."

Bailey said the young woman had planned to move on. The young Muslim woman, who had converted to that religion on her own accord, wanted to escape her own domestic situation.

"She was just done. She was starting to get her bearings. She was starting to ask questions about Christianity. She was trying to get her footing."

Bailey believes that the person responsible will one day be brought to justice, "either by the hands of the court or God himself," she said.

She hopes that person's sentence on Earth is a long jail sentence.

"I want to look them in their face, every day."

"I had to describe her teeth, her hair and her tattoo. I had to describe her birthmark and her scars. You don't ever expect to have to do that," Bailey said, crying.

"There's no reason to take someone away from their children because you're a jealous idiot. No one deserves that," Bailey said.

A great deal of heartache and different reports surround her murder. Bailey wants McCormack to know she fought for her. She looked for her and she tried to find her.

"I went knocking on doors. We looked for her ourselves. I had a friend from Jefferson City come down and we looked for her. I never gave up on her."

The pain of losing McCormack is still very fresh for Bailey.

"I still message her on Facebook. I still talk to her, like she's still there."

Bailey met McCormack when she was going through a dark time. Ironically, it was McCormack who told Bailey to end a former bad relationship.

"You're done. You're not going back,'" McCormack told Bailey.

It was McCormack who taught Bailey to stay the fight and stay strong. Her best friend encouraged her to look for the brighter things in life.

That's what she'll remember the most.

"She showed me that every dark day has that silver lining."

General News on 10/31/2019