Eveleth woman says she conspired to kill boyfriend

An Iron Range woman has admitted that she brought in a hitman to kill her boyfriend in 2014, and told authorities she's coming forward now because she can't live with the guilt.

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Janessa Peters

An Iron Range woman has admitted that she brought in a hitman to kill her boyfriend in 2014, and told authorities she’s coming forward now because she can’t live with the guilt.

Second-degree murder charges were filed Tuesday against Janessa Lynn Peters, 21, of Eveleth in the death of Harley Joseph Jacka in April 2014.

According to the criminal complaint, Peters confessed to authorities in an interview in the St. Louis County Jail in Duluth on Aug. 24. She was in jail at the time on charges of possession of methamphetamine.

Peters appeared Wednesday in the Virginia courthouse on both the murder and meth charges. Assistant County Attorney Karl Sundquist said Wednesday that he couldn't comment on whether Peters offered money in exchange for the murder.

Jacka’s body was found on April 29, 2014, in an apartment at 207 Fifth St. in Virginia. An autopsy found he had been stabbed 15 times in the head, face, neck and chest. Four knives were found at the scene.


Anthony James Isham was arrested in Duluth days later in connection with the death of Jacka, 28. Two other persons of interest in the case, Bartholamy Jake Drift and John Edward Isham, already were in custody on unrelated charges.

But according to the criminal complaint filed Tuesday against Peters, it was Peters who told Drift that she had been in a relationship with Jacka and wanted to get out.

According to the complaint, last month Peters told investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Virginia Police Department that she asked Drift to get rid of Jacka at a party on April 27, 2014. Peters told investigators that Drift agreed to do it and that she brought Jacka to the party with the intent of having him killed there.

Peters said she went back to the apartment the next day, looked in the window and saw blood on the floor. She then met with Drift who confirmed he had killed Jacka.

According to the complaint, Peters also told investigators she could “just about guarantee that it was John Isham and Anthony Isham who assisted in the stabbing.”

When asked why she was confessing more than a year after the murder, Peters allegedly told authorities that “she just can’t live with herself anymore.”

“She contacted them” to come to the jail and hear her confession, Sundquist told the News Tribune. Peters’ next court appearance on the murder charge is set for Sept. 21.

Peters is being held in custody with bail set at $1 million. She was charged by a warrant issued by State District Judge Gary Paglaiccetti, and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the charge.


John Edward Isham, 39, has accumulated a lengthy rap sheet, including a murder conviction in 1992. He's been charged and convicted of numerous assaults, a handful of thefts and a series of DWIs, among other cases, mostly in St. Louis County.

A trial date has been set for Nov. 10 for Anthony Isham, Sundquist said. Trials are expected later for Drift and John Isham. All three remain in custody on second degree murder charges.

Sundquist said he couldn't comment on whether first degree charges might be sought against any of the four suspects. A grand jury indictment is necessary to seek first degree charges.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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