March 20, 2023 | By: Sarah Mitchell
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and the University of North Florida, Applied Journalism class.
Gage was always a sweet little boy; he was always active and loved being outdoors. He loved riding dirt bikes, just like his dad, Randy. They loved riding together. He loved to joke around and was always smiling. His grandmother Rene’ stated his motto in life was From the Woods to the Water. Anything outdoors or in the water he loved. Gage’s mom Heather, as well as his dad, had that same quote tattooed on their arms to remember their son Gage.
Heather stated, “Gage was always good at what he did, no matter what it was”. She laughed and said, “He could make friends with anybody. One time he was at my parents’ house, and he went out fishing and ended up making friends with an older gentleman that lived in their neighborhood”. Heather then remembered “afterwards, Gage went over to the gentleman’s house and helped him clear out his land”. He always wanted to help others.
Gage was just 7 years old when his parents separated and he and his little sister, Mackenzie began splitting time between homes in Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, FL, every half week. Mackenzie remembers her brother as “always being up for whatever”. She remembers riding in the car with Gage and their Mimi (maternal grandmother) and looking over at Gage as he’s making faces at the cars passing by just to see their reaction.
As Gage got older, he started to enjoy other outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing. The family watched Gage race dirt bikes from the time when he was young to when he grew up. He loved his family, loved to joke around, and was always smiling. Gage had lots of friends.
Rene’ laughed when she stated one of the things, she misses about Gage is their banter. He would stand in her kitchen, and they would go back and forth with each other. Rene’ stated “I can still picture him smiling saying, ‘Graaaandmaaa’” in an exaggerated tone, if I said something he thought was silly”. When he was small Rene’ told him, “Gage you’re going to be taller than me soon,” and he responded with “Grandma I can’t wait to be taller than you!”
On March 19th, 2019, Gage was last seen at his apartment after getting a ride home from work due to his truck having some issues. The next day, the family realized no one had heard from him; and reported him missing. Eleven days later, Gage’s body was found by a fisherman in Prairie Creek, Punta Gorda. Rene’ recalled officials weren’t sure who it was, so the family had to wait for dental records to confirm it was Gage.
March 19 marks 4 years without their loving and happy Gage. During this time the family has worked closely with Crime Stoppers of Southwest Florida, a non-profit organization comprised of diverse, active, and dedicated community representatives. Gage’s family reached out looking for assistance with continuing awareness for Gage’s case. Crime Stoppers was able to help their family with putting up a billboard along US 41 in Punta Gorda, announcing a reward currently at $153,000.
The family always remembers Gage; Rene stated, “March comes around and I remember the day out at the creek and then I remember the days we waited for confirmation; we remember him the whole year, though he’s no longer here with our family”. Heather keeps in touch with Charlotte County detectives and is optimistic that there are now “fresh eyes” on the case.
Heather wants everyone to know, “Gage was a kind soul; I hope justice is served just for that alone. He didn’t deserve this. There’s nothing that he could have done to deserve such a thing.”
The big unknown is why and his family struggles with that every single day.
Anyone with information on the death of Gage Jackson is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477). An anonymous donor is offering a new reward of $150,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction. But, that doesn’t include the Crime Stoppers reward of $3,000, which is for arrest only.
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