Suspect in Vail Valley murder trial wants a divorce from imprisoned husband
Leigha Ackerson petitions local courts for divorce from admitted killer Jacob White
EAGLE — Leigha Page Ackerson, set to stand trial in Eagle County in May on charges of first-degree murder, has filed for divorce from her husband, who already pleaded guilty to the same crime and is in prison.
Ackerson is asking local courts to grant her a divorce from Jacob Taylor White, who was her husband of five years when the couple allegedly broke into Catherine Kelley’s Pilgrim Downs home in January 2018 and robbed and murdered Kelley.
In her petition for dissolution of marriage, Ackerson lists their date of separation as Jan. 25, 2018, the date Ackerson and White were taken into custody in connection with Kelley’s murder. They were married Nov. 9, 2013, in Elkton, Maryland, the divorce petition says.
In the petition, Ackerson lists her home address as 885 Chambers Avenue, Eagle, the address of the Eagle County jail. In the petition, no property and no children are listed.
Lifetime of abuse?
Ackerson’s first-degree murder trial is scheduled for May. She pleaded not guilty to eight felonies. If she’s convicted, she will go to prison for life.
Her defense attorneys, Amber St. Clair and Jennifer Melton, say Ackerson has suffered a lifetime of abuse and may have been under duress and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when Kelley was killed. Melton and St. Clair said Ackerson was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household and was homeschooled. That created a sense of isolation. The abuse continued after she married White, St. Clair said.
White admits the killing
During his sentencing hearing, White admitted killing Kelley in her Pilgrim Downs home.
“I did not act in self-defense or to protect Leigha when we killed Ms. Kelley,” White said.
White and Ackerson were living in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and decided to migrate to Colorado because they wanted to live off the land in the woods, White said.
That did not last long. They had car trouble and exited Interstate 70 in Edwards. They camped at a trailhead for three nights in January 2018. Eventually, White broke into Kelley’s house and settled into an unused back bedroom.
Kelley left the home at 7 a.m. the next day, returning mid-afternoon.
“We decided Leigha would distract them and I would kill them,” White said.
They started down the stairs and Kelley, sitting on the couch, spotted them. Surprised, she asked what they were doing in her home.
“Would you believe we were sent here by God?” White said he answered.
They chatted briefly and Ackerson asked to make a phone call. Kelley offered to make them food.
“I don’t want anyone making food for my husband except me,” White said Ackerson answered.
White testified he and Ackerson nodded at each other, and White said he pulled the cord out of his pocket and strangled Kelley.
The pair were captured while hiding in some bushes outside Kelley’s home, shivering in the single-digit January weather.
Gore Creek since 2013 has been listed on the state’s list of “impaired waterways.” Several years of work are paying off, but getting off the list has become more difficult.