May 28, 2023 | By Caitlyn Becker

Caitlyn is an Emmy-Winning Journalist, Senior Reporter, Frequent Contributor to Court TV, Dr. Phil and NewsNation, and a Project: Cold Case Volunteer

The tragic story of baby Jacob Landin is not your typical cold case. Jacob was a giggly, fearless baby with a big personality who didn’t make it to his first birthday – he was killed at nine months old.

In the more than 36 years since his death, Jacob’s killer has never been brought to justice. Unlike many cold cases, however, his family hasn’t spent the last three decades wondering who is responsible for ending his life. Rather, their unanswered question is why that person hasn’t been brought to justice.

“Jacob had a big personality for a baby,” his older brother Eric Carter-Landin said in an interview with Project: Cold Case.

Even through the phone, Eric’s smile was plainly evident when he talked about Jacob.

“I prayed for my baby brother to be born and when I found out my mom was pregnant, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I was ecstatic, I was running around yelling and screaming,” recalled Eric. “I was six-years-old when Jacob died.”

Even after all this time, Eric still gets emotional when talking about Jacob. In his nine short months of life it is clear that this little boy managed to leave an indelible mark on the hearts of his family members.

Jacob died in 1987 and the Carter-Landin family feels that the person responsible for his death is obvious. Nevertheless, justice has never been served for this beautiful, vivacious baby boy.

“He was fun,” Eric said of Jacob. “He was such a joy and had a lot of crazy energy.”

Carter-Landin’s recollections of his brother describe him as a bit of a baby bulldozer. Their mom had to keep a wind-up swing pushed against the wall because of Jacob’s habit of pulling it down in a heap and then “laying on the ground laughing, thinking it was hilarious.”

Suddenly, though, injuries started appearing on Jacob and they were serious issues like skull fractures. At one point, the baby was hospitalized due to blunt force trauma to the head and doctors had to drain fluid build up in his brain. These were not the bumps and bruises of an energetic toddler.

At the time, the man the boy’s mom was dating tried to blame six-year-old Eric for hurting his brother. According to Carter-Landin, no one bought this rationale for even a minute but, to be cautious, his mom decided to send him to visit his dad in California. “But the injuries didn’t stop,” Eric said.

One day, while Eric was with his dad, Jacob was left in the care of his mom’s boyfriend for an hour while she was wrapping up a shift at work. Jacob’s grandmother had originally been watching him but needed to go to church so the decision was made to have the boyfriend take the baby for a short while. Carter-Landin estimates that it was only about 40-45 minutes later that the boyfriend went running into his mom’s work to tell her that Jacob was in the hospital with no explanation.

His injuries were so severe that the hospital in Socorro, New Mexico was not equipped to care for him and airlifted him to Albuquerque. Again, Jacob’s injuries were so severe the second hospital was not equipped to care for him. He was airlifted again – this time to the University of New Mexico and finally rushed into emergency surgery.

“Jacob didn’t make it through surgery, he died that night,” Carter-Landin said quietly.

What happened after Jacob died is more puzzling than his tragic death itself. His case was investigated by police, Carter-Landin’s mom, grandmother and his mom’s boyfriend were all interviewed by the authorities.

At one point, he explained, the case file indicates that the boyfriend was set to take a polygraph but didn’t because he confessed to the crime.

“But there’s no transcript of the confession. There’s no audio recordings. There’s no signed confession,” he said. “There’s nothing to indicate what he confessed to or what circumstances the confession was given under.” He added: “I just don’t understand how if there’s a confession, you don’t arrest him?”

The mom’s boyfriend was the person allegedly caring for Jacob when he sustained life threatening injuries and, at least according to one case file, he confessed to being responsible for his death.  For some reason, though, no charges were ever filed in this case and no arrests were made.

“It’s something that has bothered me for a long time,” Eric said. “I just didn’t really understand why nothing was done. It doesn’t make any sense.”

 “We were gaslit by the authorities,” he continued. “We would be treated like [we] were crazy. I can’t prove any of this is like some kind of conspiracy, but it’s really bizarre.”

Eric, who hosts a podcast about Jacob’s case and others like it called True Consequences, firmly believes the man who killed his brother was protected by friends in the police force.

Through apologetic tears he said: “I always say that the podcast was born as a love letter to Jacob. It’s my love letter to my brother.”

Despite not being able to prove his assumptions, Eric hasn’t stopped trying to seek justice for Jacob and for countless other children in New Mexico whose lives were silently snuffed out at the hands of abuse.

“We are in a really bad place in New Mexico in terms of child welfare. Every child abuse bill and crime bill that came to the state Senate this year was tabled – Every. Single. One,” he grimly explained.

The sad state of child welfare in New Mexico aside, it seems Carter-Landin’s quest for justice for his little brother may bear fruit. For the first time in more than 30 years Jacob’s case has been reopened by the attorney general, which he said gives him a glimmer of “hope.”

“I’m not going to give up until the attorney general says that they can’t do anything, and even then, I’m still going to keep pushing along and still fight for change in the state. And I think that’s what inspires me. That’s what keeps me going, is that hope,” Eric said with a note of finality that makes you believe he really will do it.

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