Couple found slain; Murder-suicide suspected

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

An elderly husband and wife, each facing illness, were found shot to death yesterday in their Washington Township mobile home, the apparent result of a murder-suicide.

Robert Cook, Sr., 71, and Goldie, 85, his wife of 25 years, were pronounced dead in their bedroom at 1:05 p.m., a few minutes after Mr. Cook’s son, Robert, Jr., broke through a window and found their bodies.

Neighbors said both had been extremely sick for some time – she with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, he with cancer.

Yesterday, Mr. Cook’s daughter, Pauline Schnell, tried calling the couple’s home at 25 Lemon Creek and got no answer, said Gayle Weills, manager of the Raintree Village mobile home park, 950 East Alexis Rd., where the Cooks lived. Ms. Schnell drove to their home and knocked repeatedly on the door, again getting no answer. She noticed the storm doors were locked from inside.

She called her brother, Robert, Jr., and asked Mrs. Weills for help in getting inside. Mr. Cook then decided to break a window in the door and open it from the inside.

He took one step inside and saw the bodies, Mrs. Weills said, then walked back out and alerted authorities.

Steve Kahle, an investigator for the Lucas County coroner’s office, said it appeared Mr. Cook shot his wife in the head, then turned the gun on himself. Mr. Cook was holding the 38-caliber handgun, he said.

A final ruling is pending results of autopsies scheduled for today. It was unclear how long the two had been dead, but a family member spoke with the couple about 11 a.m. Sunday, Mr. Kahle said.

Neighbors could not remember hearing any gunshots. Investigators found no note.

Mrs. Weills, who had been the Cooks’ neighbor for several years before moving two lots down, said the last year and a half had been tough for the Cooks. Her Alzheimer’s had become more advanced – she had increasing difficulty remembering names – and he had begun treatment for his cancer.

The two were very close, and Mr. Cook’s love for his wife was clear, neighbors said.

“He did everything for her,” Mrs. Weills said. “He really loved her.”

Before her Alzheimer’s grew too severe, Mrs. Cook loved spending time with children, Mrs. Weills said. When Mrs. Weills’s granddaughter would visit the Cooks, Mrs. Cook always had ice cream for her and coloring books to share.

Jason Ethridge, whose family moved next door to the Cooks 17 months ago, said he spoke with Mr. Cook regularly. He occasionally borrowed tools from Mr. Cook and would often sit on his patio and chat for a while.

Doctors encouraged Mr. Cook to walk often, Mr. Ethridge said, and he would regularly walk about three-quarters of the way up his street, then walk back.

“I got a little farther today,” he would report back to his neighbor after a successful trip.

But in the last few months, lights in the Cook home went off earlier at night and came on later in the morning than they used to, he said.

Mr. Ethridge last saw Mr. Cook about two weeks ago, when he returned from a doctor’s appointment. It was the first time Mr. Ethridge had seen his neighbor using a walker, and he was moving slowly and gingerly.

Mr. Cook said hello to him, Mr. Ethridge said, but nothing more. “We’d usually sit down and talk for a while,” he said.

The last time Mrs. Weills saw Mr. Cook, he was crying. It was about a month ago, she said, and Mr. Cook was upset that he might not be able to keep up the rent. He had just been forced to switch from a cane to a walker to move around, his cancer had become worse, and he worried if he would be able to take care of his wife for much longer.

When February’s rent was due, Mr. Cook’s son brought it in for his father.