40 Weeks Later, No One Has Been Charged With the Murders of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson

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Crystal and Britney met on a Metro bus, according to Crystal's friend Nita Kae Taylor. They'd both grown up on the south side of Houston and they both wanted a different kind of life. They seemed to click because they wanted similar things, Taylor says.

The first time Britney visited the Jacksons' house, Ivan stood in the doorway and told Crystal that Britney couldn't come in until she pulled up her sagging pants. Crystal told her dad Britney didn't have a belt with her. "I don't care if she has to tie a shoestring around her waist. She's not coming in this house like that," Ivan barked. Britney found something to hold up her pants and then went inside and met Crystal's family. After that first appearance, the family was cool but otherwise cordial to Britney the few times she came around. "It's obvious that Crystal, even though her parents were not happy she was gay, they still loved her and still treated her as a daughter," Cook says. "I don't think Britney ever had that."

Britney was left to the care of her great-grandmother, Annie Lee Cosby, when she was less than a year old. Annie Lee got legal custody of Britney in 1990. Her mother, Loranda McDonald, was very young when she had Britney -- her oldest child and only daughter -- and she "wasn't a mother type," Annie Lee says. Larry was convicted of sexual assault and sent to prison in 1994, according to court records. He was released in 2004, but was sent back to prison in 2011 for failing to register as a sex offender. Annie Lee was one of the few constants in Britney's life.

Britney could be playful, and she loved it when the whole extended family came to town for the holidays. Whenever her cousin KC Cosby and his family pulled into Annie Lee's driveway, Britney would come bounding out of the house to throw her arms around her relatives. But she was mostly a quiet child who kept to herself, Annie Lee says.

Years later, Britney would lecture Crystal on Facebook about the importance of making her daughter a priority, about being there for Zaniah -- something that hadn't happened in her own childhood.

Britney's parents weren't really on the scene for much of her life, KC says. Britney looked like a smaller version of Larry, but the two were never very close. "She talked to her mom from time to time, but with her dad it was never really a good connection. They had their moments, but they would always go back to the other way. Just walking in between the two of them, there was a negative vibe. They bumped heads. They disagreed on a lot of stuff."

In middle school, Britney started hanging out with a rough crowd and dressing in more-masculine clothes. When she was 17, she and two other people used bricks to shatter a -window and break into a house. They took some video games and jewelry, and were caught within hours of the crime, according to court records.

After that Britney started making some changes. First she got a job at KFC and earned enough money to pay back everything she owed because of the burglary. She took nursing classes and learned how to take care of Annie Lee after her 90-year-old great--grandmother developed diabetes and had to have her right leg removed. Britney found a job as a barista at Starbucks and started going to church. "She went through a lot of negative stuff, a rough childhood, but she didn't want to be known as the bad kid anymore. She was going to work, taking care of her [great]--grandmother; she was trying to get her head straight," KC says. "She was just trying to make her life better than what everyone expected it to be."

And then she met Crystal. If there were girlfriends before Crystal, Britney didn't mention them much. KC met Crystal only in February 2014, even though she and Britney had been dating for almost two years. "They seemed good for each other. They were like a power couple, and they were always together. I never saw two people so attached. It was great because I got to see my cousin really happy."

Britney was close to her great-grandmother, but there was a lot she didn't talk about. For one thing, Annie Lee made it clear that Britney could never be honest with her about her sexuality. "Crystal was a nice girl," Annie Lee says now. "I never saw nothing funny about Crystal, and I'm kind of a funny person noticing things about people. I pay attention, and I never saw anything wrong with Crystal."

Annie Lee says, however, that she would never have allowed them to be a couple in her house. "They couldn't have been here together. Not like that," she said. "If it was going on, I didn't see it. And I'm nosy, see. I'm 90 years old. You can't put anything over on me." Annie Lee says she doesn't know what happened to her great-granddaughter and doesn't understand why people -- most people, including his family -- believe Larry was involved. The Jacksons last talked to Crystal on Wednesday evening, March 5, when she and Britney arrived at the house to show off their new car and pick up Zaniah. "That was the first part of Britney's plan," Britney's aunt -Ebony McDade says. "She wanted to get a car so she could go from work to school; she was going to move out of that house and have her own place, her own life. I know where she came from and what she was trying to get away from. To see her try to change her environment and change her life, I was so proud of her."

The two had saved up their tax refunds and other money and bought a silver 2006 Kia Sorento a few days before. Zaniah lived with the Jacksons and stayed at Annie Lee's only occasionally, but the couple planned to change that. The car was the first part of their project to eventually get their own apartment and build their own family with Zaniah. But Thursday morning rolled by without a phone call and Crystal didn't answer texts from her family or messages on social media. By Thursday afternoon, Ivan was calling around to the hospitals, and by Thursday evening, he started calling the jails. Still, as she drove home on Friday to meet with the police, Mary persuaded herself her daughter was running around New Orleans or sitting in jail.

Only when the detectives pulled out photos of a body did Mary realize why they were really there. At first she didn't believe them. Even as she looked at the pictures, her mind refused to register that this was her child. She insisted they had the wrong person until the detectives described Crystal's tattoos. Crystal would show up with a new one every so often and point it out to her mom, grinning and trying to get a rise out of her. She had "Zaniah-" tattooed on her left wrist. When the detectives told Mary the body bore the same image, she knew they were telling the truth.

Numb, the Jacksons went and picked up Zaniah from Annie Lee's house. Crystal had never mentioned Britney's father to her parents, but Larry introduced himself when he opened the front door. Ivan put his arms around the man and offered his condolences. Mary shook his hand.

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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray