CARLTON, Minn. — About 50 people gathered Tuesday, Sept. 8, to demand justice for Jackie DeFoe and her children outside the Carlton County Courthouse.
DeFoe, 27, was found dead in her Cloquet home from multiple stab wounds March 7 and her 20-month-old son, Kevin, was pronounced dead at the scene from blunt-force trauma. An autopsy later revealed DeFoe was 13 weeks pregnant at the time of her death.
The “Justice for Jackie” event started with Taysha Martineau, founder of Gitchigumi Scouts, a group that searches for missing and murdered Indigenous women, wrapping DeFoe’s mother, Tammy Suomi, in a blanket. In some Native American cultures wrapping a grieving person in a blanket signifies the support and love of the community around them, Martineau said.
Drummers led songs as the group marched around the courthouse and to the front of nearby Carlton High School, where DeFoe and Martineau attended school together. Most of the people at the rally carried a photo of DeFoe and Kevin.
DeFoe's boyfriend, Sheldon James Thompson, 33, is charged with two counts of intentional second-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder of an unborn child.
Suomi contacted Martineau in March concerned about DeFoe.
“She reached out to me, and she was worried that her daughter, Jackie, may be missing,” Martineau said. “I said to her that day, ‘You know, Tammy, I'm going to stick with you. I'm going to stick with you until the very end of this, until we bring her home — no matter what.’”
Martineau said she initially founded the Gitchigumi Scouts to oppose Enbridge’s Line 3 project, but it evolved into something more.
“I recognize I may not be able to stop the pipeline all by myself, but what I can do is love and care for my community,” Martineau said. “So that’s my mission, and what we do is we search and patrol for missing and murdered Indigenous women and we patrol our community to help lower the statistics that Indigenous people face by watching for predatory behavior and responding to domestic violence.”
Martineau said the group has a mobile food kitchen and support for those experiencing homelessness and also provides “harm reduction” for those in the community suffering from addiction.
Suomi said she reached out to Martineau again recently after attending a virtual hearing where Thompson was “smirking and smiling” throughout the call. Suomi was worried Thompson might attempt to fight the charges, despite calling 911 to turn himself in.
Fran White, another activist at the rally, told the crowd Thompson had been convicted of multiple felonies and gross misdemeanors, including violent crimes, over the past 13 years.
“That's why we're here today, to send the message to Carlton County that this is serious,” Martineau said. “He's not going to be let off with another slap on the wrist. Jackie's community is rallying around Tammy and demanding justice for both her baby, Kevin, and that unborn baby.”
Martineau also used the event to urge those experiencing domestic violence to speak up and reach out to the Gitchigumi Scouts or another agency before it’s too late.
“We’ll kick the door in for you,” Martineau said.
Martineau also had a message for Thompson’s family still living in Carlton County.
“We want Sheldon’s family and his children to know that we love and support them through this,” she said. “No part of them is bad, and they shouldn’t have to feel that way.”