Nikko Jenkins' family tracked his mental deterioration by his face.
“At one point in time he loved his face,” said his mother, Lori Jenkins.
But during Nikko Jenkins' decade in prison, the tattoos on his face grew as his connection with reality diminished, she said.
Then gashes appeared.
He would tell his mother that he had cut his face because “the demon wanted him to sacrifice himself,” she said, though prison officials told her it had been just an accident.
Lori Jenkins and her youngest daughter, Lori Sayles, spoke to The World-Herald separately from jail last week. They said they wanted to set the record straight about Nikko Jenkins' mental illness and the allegations against the family.
Nikko Jenkins, 27, is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation at the Lincoln Regional Center as a judge weighs whether he is competent to stand trial on four counts of first-degree murder.
Authorities say Jenkins went on a killing spree after being released from prison last July, targeting Curtis Bradford, a former prison buddy; Juan Uribe-Pena and Jorge C. Cajiga-Ruiz, whom he robbed; and Andrea Kruger, whose car he allegedly stole to commit another robbery.
He has repeatedly said he plans to plead guilty.
Prosecutors have also charged a handful of his family members, including his mother and three sisters, in connection with the crimes.
“They're just trying to make us all look like big, monster killers, and that's not true at all,” Lori Jenkins said.
The 47-year-old mother of five is accused of buying the ammunition used in the killings and helping her son cover up the crimes. She is charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of ammunition and being an accessory to a felony.
Sayles, 18, is charged with being an accessory to a felony. Prosecutors said she was driving when her brother and another sister, Erica Jenkins, got out and killed Bradford. Sayles is also charged with robbery in a separate incident.
Both Sayles and her mother denied any role in Nikko Jenkins' crimes.
They said they tried to keep him out of trouble and cooperated with authorities after he was charged.
Nikko Jenkins has said that an Egyptian god, “Opophis,” ordered him to kill. Prosecutors say his motive was more secular: revenge and robbery.
The family has argued that Nikko Jenkins should have received better mental health care in prison, where he spent 10 years for robbery.
“He's my only son, and I love him to death,” Lori Jenkins said. “And it's just sad.”
Jenkins said her son was diagnosed at one point with schizophrenia and said her daughter and co-defendant Erica Jenkins is bipolar.
The siblings' father, the late David Magee, also had a history of mental illness, Lori Jenkins said.
Lori Jenkins, a certified nursing assistant and telemarketer, said her son exhibited signs of mental illness from a young age.
As a child, Nikko would wake up and complain that a bogeyman was after him, Lori Jenkins said. She thought he would grow out of it — but she said that never happened.
Then, at age 7, Nikko took his mom's loaded gun to school.
“It scared the crap out of me,” she said.
In 1995, at age 8, he was hospitalized and received a psychiatric assessment for fighting and having suicidal thoughts. Doctors provided an initial diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder and possible attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
A dozen more mental health evaluations followed over the years, according to court records and the psychiatrist who was hired by the defense.
That psychiatrist diagnosed him with schizophrenia, according to a report he provided in court last week.
Nikko Jenkins had previously been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which combines the symptoms of schizophrenia and a mood disorder, as well as a variety of other mental illnesses.
He has been prescribed several different medications over the years, though sometimes he refused to take them, according to records.
Lori Jenkins said her son's problems worsened when he went to prison for robbery at age 16, especially after he was sent to solitary confinement.
Sayles said her brother would sometimes speak in an English accent and claim to be someone else.
“I knew it wasn't my brother,” she said.
Sayles said she is close to her mother, and the two often visited her brother in prison.
Sayles, expecting a child in late April, said her mother told her she wasn't allowed to tattoo or pierce her face as her brother has done. Still, she has a few tattoos, including Hello Kitty on her foot and “love” on a finger, like the singer Rihanna.
Sayles said she and her mother wanted to move to Florida and were trying to persuade Nikko to move with them when he was arrested in connection with the August killings.
She blames her sister Erica Jenkins for the killing spree, saying that Erica has always been rebellious and that she doesn't take responsibility for her actions.
“Why would you pump my brother up to do something like that?” Sayles asked. “He ain't been out (of prison) for 10 years.”
Now he's facing a death sentence, and several other family members have been charged in connection to his alleged crimes:
» Erica Jenkins, first-degree murder and several other felonies.
» Lori Jenkins' brother, Warren Levering, first-degree murder and other charges.
» Lori Jenkins' cousin, Christine Bordeaux, two counts of conspiracy to commit robbery.
» Another daughter of Lori Jenkins, Melonie Jenkins, two counts of witness tampering.
» A cousin's wife's brother, Anthony Wells, felon in possession of a weapon.
Sayles said she wasn't driving the night that Bradford died, although she acknowledged she was in the car.
“All I know is I was confused and very, very frightened,” she said.
Sayles said she thought they were just dropping off Bradford at a house. She stayed in the car and said she didn't know what happened until after her siblings came back.
“All I heard was gunshots, and he didn't return to the car,” she said.
Sayles hopes a judge will reduce her bail amount so she can get out soon. She wants to return to classes at Metropolitan Community College and hopes she can work again as a city lifeguard.
Meanwhile, she said, “I just feel so bad for my poor brother.”