They couldn’t have been more opposites when they met in high school during 1989. Alan Bates was active in school activities and was considered popular by his peers. Jessica, on the other hand, was viewed as “Goth” and, even in a group of kids known for their antisocial natures, not completely accepted.
It made for great gossip when Jessica and Alan began dating, and the rumor mills were running at full speed when Jessica got pregnant and the couple was married in a rushed ceremony.
The Bates wouldn’t be the first teenage couple to marry under such circumstances, nor would they be the last, but it didn’t make life any easier for them but they seemed to make the most of it. Yet, there were times when Jessica had an overinflated sense of self-worth and Alan could never seem to do anything right.
Working to support his family and still trying to earn his college degree, Alan grew tired of Jessica’s very increasing demands and unreasonable expectations. All he wanted was peace and a little patience from his wife.
The only thing holding the couple together was their two daughters. Alan knew it, Jessica knew it. Alan loved his girls more than he hated his marriage, so he tried to tough it out. Jessica, alternatively, continued her foot stomping, princess act but added a helping of extramarital affairs to the mix.
It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. By 1994, it was time for Alan to toss in the towel.
And The Battle Begins
Domestic princesses are notorious for wanting their cake and to eat it too. Jessica was none too happy when Alan filed for divorce, but realizing her soon-to-be ex-husband wasn’t going to insist on custody of the girls and willing to pay child support, she softened up and things between the couple became amicable.
But any good post-divorce relations they had achieved disappeared when Alan met art historian Terra Klugh. Terra was the complete opposite of the woman in Alan’s life of the past few years. She was even tempered, exhibited class and finesse, and, best of all, she seemed to truly care about this girls.
Jessica Bates hated her and was unhappy with the idea of her children having a stepmother. Alan would pay for finding love again.
Alan and Terra wed in June 2000. You can almost Jessica saying, “Oh hell no!” Not to be outdone, in the same month, Jessica married Jeff McCord, a sheriff’s deputy she met through her job as a Birmingham Police dispatcher.
The real battle began with Jessica making excuses to shorten Alan’s visitation and placing prohibitions on what he could do or be around during his time with the girls. Although at first Alan tried to somewhat oblige her demands for the sake of the children, finally took the issues to family Court. There Jessica got a quick lesson in post-divorce control; that is, you have none.
The Court Orders meant nothing to Jessica and soon she was refusing Alan parenting time with his girls, usually by not being home at his scheduled time. Other times she moved and wouldn’t give Alan the address or she hid them at her mother’s house.
Again, Alan took the matter up before a Judge. Jessica was lectured and threatened not to interfere with Alan’s custody time.
Again and again and again Jessica ignored the Judge’s warnings. Again and again and again, Alan sought the help of the family court system. He shelled out lots of money time and again for Jessica to get nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
When Alan and Terra moved to Maryland the following year, Jessica stopped attending the hearings altogether.
Her contemptuous actions could no longer be ignored. In December 2001, Jessica was arrested on a Contempt of Court charge and ordered to serve ten days in jail.
When he and Jessica divorced, Alan had believed, despite their tumultuous marriage, Jessica was a good mother to the girls. He knew between work and school, he couldn’t be the kind parent they needed and felt Jessica was better suited. But in the years since the divorce, watching her use the children as pawns in a bitter game rooted in jealousy and seeing the effects on his children and his relationship with them, Alan decided it was time to right the wrong.
He decided to file for custody.
When All Else Fails, Try Murder.
Jessica McCord wasn’t stupid, she senses what was coming. She realized she’d pushed the Court as far as she could and her mommy-card was expired. She could not allow her girls to be raised by her and, quite frankly, she need that child support – she and Jeff had a mountain of debt and she was unemployed.
While serving her ten days for contempt, Jessica read a murder mystery and a plan began forming in a her mind; a plan that would ensure she never lose custody.
Alan was coming to Birmingham to participate in depositions pertaining to the custody case and he had made arrangements through his attorney to visit with the girls during this time.
On February 15, 2002, Alan and Terra flew into Birmingham International Airport and rented a car. The couple was anxious to reach the McCords because, once they picked up the girls, the family was going to visit Alan’s parents in Atlanta, Georgia.
When they reached Jessica and Jeff’s home, the found a note on the front door that read, “Come to the back. We’re having trouble with the front door.”
At the rear door, Jessica greeted them, invited them into the family room, and offered them a seat on the leather couch. Under the guise of getting the girls, Jessica exited the room.
As they waited, exchanging small talk among themselves and undoubtedly were weary by Jessica’s seemingly cordial demeanor, when suddenly Jeff entered the room and fired four shots into each of their bodies. It happened so quickly that there was no time to try and defend themselves.
Like a black widow spider, Jessica had lured Alan and Terra into her “web” then without any thought to how it would emotionally hurt her daughters or the couples families, she murdered them – well, she had her Sheriff’s Deputy husband do it.
Fortunately, the Bates girls weren’t at their mother’s home to witness the murder of the father and stepmother. Jessica had never intended to let them visit with their father and had arranged for them to stay with their grandmother (Jessica’s mom). The house was empty except for she and Jeff, and they immediately went to work with the last phase of the plan.
First, they loaded Alan and Terra’s bodies into the truck of the rental car. Next, they drove to a remote area just outside of Atlanta. Leaving the car in a field, they set it on fire believing it would destroy any evidence.
Returning to the Birmingham, Alabama, home, Jeff and Jessica began cleaning the crime scene. They stripped the blood-soaked leather from the couch frame, they replaced floor tiles, and wiped away blood splatters.
They thought they had committed the perfect crime.
They were idiots.
When Alan and Jessica didn’t arrive in Atlanta at the expected time, his parents weren’t too concerned; after all, Atlanta traffic can be a nightmare. But when their calls to the couples’ cell phones went unanswered as well as attempts to reach them at their Maryland home, the elder Bateses began to fear the worst. Philip Bates began phoning the police agencies and hospitals inquiring about his son and daughter-in-law. But it was to no avail.
During the early morning hours of February 16, 2002, a farmer called to report what he believed was a forest fire. When firemen and police arrived, they found a burning car instead of a forest fire. The theory the car had probably been stolen in Atlanta and taken for a joy ride became much more serious when they discovered the charred remains of two human bodies in the trunk.
The car fire had reached such high temperatures that the license plate had been melted off the car. However, it was intact enough for police to trace it and learn that it belonged to a Mavis Car Rental in Birmingham, Alabama. After that, it wasn’t much of a stretch to for Jessica to become the prime suspect in the murder of the couple of the trunk now identifed as Alan and Terra Bates.
Police immediately interviewed Jeff at work. He didn’t seem to concerned about the Bateses death or that he was being questioned about it. He told officers that Alan and his wife had never showed up to pick up the girls. He continued by saying he and Jessica had carried on with their belated Valentine’s Day plans after taking the girls to Jessica’s mother. He even produced two ticket stubs to a showing of Lord of the Rings.
When police spoke with Jessica at her mother’s home, she gave the same exact story; adding that she had called Alan’s cell phone once and left a message inquiring about where he was. Jessica said Alan never returned the call.
Investigator’s weren’t buying the couples’ story and obtained a search warrant for the McCord home. When they arrived at the McCord house on February 17, 2002, no one was home so they forced their way in. What they found was shocking.
It appeared someone had attempted to quickly “remodel” the family room. Police officers observed the new floor tiles. New wallpaper covered the walls, but it had clearly been done in a rush as it wasn’t even near being properly aligned. And when they removed it, there was an obvious bullet hole in the drywall. Then they discovered a small amount of blood on the glass coffee table.
Investigators knew they had discovered the crime scene. Using evidence found in the McCord home, police secured warrants for Jeff and Jessica McCord. But where were they?
Eventually investigators tracked the couple to a friend’s home. It was later learned that the McCords had left the state but soon returned to Alabama and met with an attorney.
The couple went quietly when police arrested them on two counts of first degree murder.
Justice Is Served
Although the case was mostly circumstantial, centered around Jessica and Alan’s bitter custody war, prosecutors believed the case was airtight. They were unwilling to talk about any plea deals with Jessica, but Jeff was another story.
Jeff McCord may not have been smart enough to tell his wife no when it came to murder, but he was smart enough to know he was going to prison and didn’t want to be labeled a snitch there. He refused to testify against his wife.
At her trial, Jessica took the stand and tried to convince the jury she was a victim as well. She told of how Alan was trying to take the girls way from her. She cried as she told how Alan was not the nice guy he portrayed himself to be in public and she’d frequently be subjected to his “dark side.”
The jury wasn’t buying what she was selling and on February 15, 2003, a year to the day that Alan and Terra were murdered, a jury found Jessica guilty of first degree murder times two.
During the sentencing phase testimony, Jessica never said she sorry instead choosing to still proclaim innocence. Her testimony focuses mainly on her children, which many believe ultimately saved her life as the jury opted for a sentence for life without parole.
Jeff McCord, the gunman in the murders of Alan and Terra Bates, was also found guilty and received life in prison but will be eligible for parole after serving only 25 years.
Jessica was insistent on controlling Alan following their divorce, using the children like pawns. And when she could no longer pull Alan’s strings and make him dance to her tune, she resorted to murder.
Now Jessica McCord spends her days in an Alabama prison. Ever single aspect of her life, from when she eats to when she sleeps, is controlled by others.
And in the end, Jessica lost her children.
Isn’t Karma a bitch?
the Alabama Department of Corrections website.