HAVERHILL — Evanda Jackson, the man accused of stabbing 21-year-old Izayah Cruz to death in September, has been cleared of the murder charge he faced after an Essex County grand jury failed to indict him for the crime.

Jackson, 47, is awaiting release from Middleton Jail Thursday, according to corrections department officials. He had been in custody there since his arrest on Sept. 1.

According to District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's spokeswoman Carrie Kimball, the grand jury returned a "no bill" on charges against Jackson. Grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret and testimony is not made public. 

"When a person is arrested for a felony, they are arraigned in district court but the case must be presented to a Grand Jury to determine if there is sufficient evidence to charge a person with the crime they are accused of," Kimball said. "A 'no bill' means that they did not find enough evidence to charge."

In the case against Jackson, those on the grand jury were asked to consider first degree murder, second degree murder and manslaughter and returned "no bills'' on all three, Kimball said.

"There is no longer any reason for him to be held,'' Kimball said.

Anticipating Jackson arriving home after his release from jail, Haverhill police have established a strong presence in the neighborhood where Jackson lives — next door to Cruz's girlfriend and the location of the stabbing. Family and friends plan to gather on Kimball Street Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to remember Cruz in the wake of the ruling.

Cruz, who lived as 10 North St., died Sept. 1 after being stabbed in the chest following an altercation on Kimball Street in Haverhill.

According to a police report, after being stabbed Cruz tried to drive himself to Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill when he stopped breathing and crashed his car in the area of Boardman and Water streets just before 4 a.m. Cruz's brother Elijah Cruz was also in the car when Izayah stopped breathing. Elijah called 911 for help, according to the police report, and while CPR was administered at the scene, Izayah later died at Holy Family Hospital.

In an interview with police, Elijah told police that his brother was involved in an altercation on Kimball Street. That street is in the heart of the Acre neighborhood, which is known for street crime.

According to a police report, Izayah dropped off a 21-year-old Haverhill woman he was dating at her home on Kimball Street between 3 and 4 a.m. When they arrived at her home, the woman told police she noticed her neighbor — later identified as Jackson — drinking Fireball whiskey outside with a friend, the report said. She told police Jackson appeared to be intoxicated, the report said.

The woman told police Jackson approached the couple and offered her alcohol but she did not accept and felt disrespected by his actions, according to the report. When the woman and Izayah were walking toward her home, Jackson pushed Izayah, the report said. Once she was inside her home, the woman saw Jackson push him again, according to the report. Izayah was eventually able to get into his car and leave, the report said.

According to Elijah Cruz, his brother returned to their home after dropping off his girlfriend and asked Elijah to come back to Kimball Street with him to confront Jackson and the other man, the police report said. Elijah told police that his brother said Jackson scratched him during the earlier incident.

Elijah is quoted in the report as saying Jackson "became enraged" when the brothers returned to Kimball Street. When Izayah got out of his car to confront Jackson, according to the report, Jackson pulled out a knife and stabbed him once in the chest.

In an interview with investigators, which Jackson gave voluntarily, he said he regularly carries a knife in case he needs it for self-defense, according to the police report. In a conversation with lead Detective Joseph Benedetti, Jackson said he came home from work and was drinking Fireball whiskey with his neighbor outside, according to the report.

Jackson said that when the men returned to Kimball Street, the passenger in the car had an "elongated weapon" in his hand and yelled that Jackson was "messing with the wrong gang,'' according to the police report. In his interview with police, Elijah said he brought a red metal wheel lock device and began banging it on the ground in an effort to get Jackson and the man with him to back up, according to the police report.

Jackson said he had a small knife in his waistband as the men faced each other, and when Jackson went to reach for the knife, Izayah punched him in the mouth, according to the report.

Jackson said he then pulled out the knife and stabbed Izayah once in the chest, according to the report. Elijah told police that when Jackson approached his brother, he said something "to the effect of 'I told you .... what would happen,'" according to the report.

After the stabbing, Jackson told investigators he went back inside his home, had a cigarette, used a paper towel to wipe blood off the knife and went to bed, the report said.

Jackson was employed at Anna Jaques Hospital as a sterile technician at the time of his arrest, though hospital officials said they suspended him from his job after the stabbing. Jackson and his wife have two children, ages 9 and 11.

Court officials said Jackson was previously accused of possessing a sawed-off shotgun and domestic assault in Virginia, among other offenses. Jackson was also involved in an incident in December 2017 in Salisbury where he drove his car into another man. Although that case was later continued without a finding for a year, Jackson was ordered to attend and complete an anger management course.

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