Murder in DallasDallas police are no strangers to violent death, and Det. Gerald Robinson expected no surprises when he was called to examine a womans corpse at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 12, 1980. The body had been found 45 minutes earlier on Bryan Street, an inner-city neighborhood of honky-tonk saloons, cheap lodgings and greasy-spoon restaurants. Tempers flared often there, and the results were sometimes fatal.
Robinson found the victim nude from the waist down, her blouse ripped open. Bruises on her neck suggested strangulation as the cause of death. Her torn slacks lay 20 feet away, hastily concealed in a clump of trees. Drag marks and abrasions on the womans flesh showed that she had been hauled across dirt and gravel after she was killed and stripped. A drivers license in the victims pocket identified her as 32-year-old Wanda Faye Roberts, residing five blocks north of the site where she was found. Postmortem tests revealed no sexual assault, but they proved that Roberts had been drinking heavily before she died.
Police scoured the Bryan Street bars and soon found one where Roberts was known as a regular. The bartender recalled her latest visit, on the night she was murdered. Roberts had left the bar around 2:00 a.m. with another frequent customer, known only as Eddie. Det. Robinson filed the clue but could do nothing with it. He needed a suspect, and there were thousands of Eddies in Dallas.
There was nothing Robinson could do but wait.
Near midnight on November 30, 1980, 43-year-old Sally Thompsons two sons brought a girlfriend home to visit at her Dallas apartment. They saw lights burning in the living room and heard the TV playing, but the door was locked. Knocking and rattling the knob, they waited several minutes before a stranger opened the door. He was slender, average height, with dark hair and a thin mustache. He reeked of whiskey and appeared disoriented, but he offered no resistance as the boys pushed past him.
They found their mother lying on the floor, facedown beside the couch, with her jeans and panties wadded around her ankles. Frightened now, the boys fled to a neighbors apartment and summoned police. Offices found the stranger standing beside Thompsons corpse and took him into custody without resistance. The man identified himself as Carroll Edward Cole, residing two blocks from the Thompson apartment. When questioned, he recalled meeting Thompson at a nearby bar and accepting her invitation to come home for sex. Cole had been undressing her, he said, when Thompson suddenly collapsed. Paramedics on the scene found no signs of violence on her body, suggesting possible death from an overdose of alcohol or drugs. Cole was detained until a medical examiner completed the autopsy, listing Thompsons cause of death as indeterminate, and then he was released.
Det. Robinson reviewed the Thompson file next morning, noting that Coles middle name might be shortened to Eddie by friends. He also noted that Coles Lemmon Avenue address was a halfway house for felons on parole, located within two miles of the Wanda Roberts murder scene. A call to the halfway house told Robinson that Cole had arrived in Dallas on October 8, 1980, two days after his release from a federal lockup for mail theft. After missing curfew several times, he had left the halfway house on November 3, but called back to negotiate a second chance on the night Wanda Roberts was murdered. A further background check on Cole revealed an extensive criminal record, including a 1967 Missouri conviction for felonious assault on an adolescent girl.
That afternoon, Robinson led a team of plainclothesmen to pick Cole up at his workplace, a Toys R Us warehouse. In custody, Cole repeated his story about Sally Thompson and admitted a casual acquaintance with Wanda Roberts. They had quarreled the night she died, Cole said, but he had no idea who had killed her.
Returning from that errand, Robinson decided to start from scratch. Now about that girl in the bar, he began. Tell me about her.
Cole frowned and replied, Which one?
Body CountColes litany of death consumed the afternoon and evening of December 1, 1980. Det. Robinson took notes as the prisoner admitted strangling Dorothy King, Wanda Roberts and Sally Thompson. In each case the scenario was nearly identical: a barroom meeting, promises of sex, and Coles hands clamped around a dying womans neck.
Nor were the Dallas murders isolated incidents. In fact, there had been six before them in the past nine years. All drunken sluts, by Coles account. All strangled. Some of them molested after death.
In San Diego he remembered three victims. The first was Essie Buck, a tavern owner strangled, stripped and dumped outside the city limits in May 1971. The second was Bonnie Sue ONeil, a prostitute Cole strangled and discarded in the alley behind an appliance shop where he worked in August 1979. A month later Coles alcoholic wife Diana fell prey to his murderous rage, her body wrapped in blankets and hidden in a closet of their home while Eddie hit the road.
Las Vegas was another city where Cole had spent considerable time, and he had claimed two victims there. Part-time prostitute Kathlyn Blum was strangled and dumped in a residential neighborhood during May 1977. More than two years later, in November 1979, victim Marie Cushman had been left in the bed she shared briefly with Cole at the Casbah Hotel. The final victim on Coles list was Myrlene Hamer, nicknamed Teepee for her Native American roots. Strangled and dumped in a field outside Casper, Wyoming, her body was recovered by authorities in August 1975.
When he ran out of names, Cole was booked into Dallas City Jail on three counts of first-degree murder. Despite his confessions, however, Cole still presented a problem for prosecutors. Local medical examiners had missed the cause of death on two of his three victims, and San Diego authorities told the press Cole had killed no one at all in their city. Deputy Coroner Jay Johnson told reporters, I dont believe theres anything to it, while Lt. John Gregory, chief of San Diegos homicide squad, held a similar view. The coroner conducted thorough autopsies, Gregory declared, and the man would have to have been some sort of expert to have strangled these women without leaving any bruise marks.
This one is almost a complete blank, Cole said of the Oklahoma victim. He didnt know the womans name, but Cole remembered finding pieces of her body scattered from the bathroom to the kitchen of his small apartment. Evidently I had done some cooking the night before, he testified. There was some meat on the stove in a frying pan and part that I hadnt eaten on a plate, on the table.
First BloodCarroll Edward Cole was born at Sioux City, Iowa on May 9, 1938, the second son of LaVerne and Vesta Cole. A sister followed in 1939, before the family moved to Richmond, California, LaVerne seeking work in the local shipyards. Drafted to serve his country in World War II, LaVerne would be absent when his younger sons life took a sudden and bizarre turn for the worse.
One day in 1943, as Cole recalled, his mother took him with her to visit an unfamiliar apartment. There she met soldiers, engaging in drunken sex while Eddie waited in the squalid parlor with strangers. Afterward, at home, Vesta beat Eddie and twisted his arms, threatening worse if he ever revealed her transgression. The excursions were repeated, each capped with increasingly sadistic punishment, until his father returned home at wars end. According to school records, Vesta kept her whipping boy at home until age seven, when by law he should have entered first grade at six.
Wars end and his fathers return brought relief of a sort, but only by a matter of degree. Vesta still harassed and punished Eddie over the slightest infraction, and he had also begun to suffer at school. Playmates teased him mercilessly about his girls name, often leaving him in tears.
The kids made quite a thing of taunting me, Cole later recalled. I felt the animosity, withdrawing more and more into myself. One afternoon, hiding beneath the porch at home, Cole briefly blacked out and awoke to find he had strangled the familys puppy. Strangely relieved by the act of killing, he began to fantasize about killing his motheror, for that matter, any female who crossed his path.
Despite those lethal daydreams, Coles first murder victim would be male. The boyan ass from school named Duanewas one of those who taunted Cole relentlessly about his name. One summer afternoon in 1946, Cole joined his brother and a group of other boys to go swimming at Richmonds yacht harbor. Duane was part of the group, and they had barely reached their destination when he resumed the tired old litany: How does it feel to have a girls name, Carroll?
They were alone, with Cole in the water and Duane crouched on a nearby log, prepared to spring. He held his nose and jumped, Cole tracking his progress from a trail of bubbles, moving to intercept Duane. As Duane tried to surface, Cole clamped his legs around the other boys neck, bracing his hands against the nearest log for leverage. I held him under till I knew he was dead, Cole later wrote. And when I let him go, he sank.
Authorities dismissed the drowning as an accident, though Cole spent several months in fear of imminent arrest. I was afraid of the policewith reason, as I thoughtbut there was no remorse about Duane, Cole said. I hated him, and I was glad I stood up for myself.
It was the first time, but it would not be the last.
'Not Mentally Ill'The thrill derived from murder is a temporary fix. Like any other powerful narcotic, homicidal violence satisfies the senses for a time, but the effect soon fades. And when it does, a predator goes hunting.
If I thought my life was going to improve, Cole said, of killing Duane, I was sadly mistaken. Neither at home or at school. I was getting meaner and meaner, fighting all the time in a way to hurt or maim, and my thoughts were not the ideas of an innocent child, believe me.
Cole masked his morbid fantasies to a degree, in elementary school and junior high, but they began to take a toll. An IQ test administered in February 1953 ranked Cole at the genius level of 152, but his grades scraped along that semester at a D+ average. By high school he was burglarizing liquor stores and drinking heavily, finally dropping out entirely in the middle of his junior year.
Cole worked briefly at a Richmond factory, then joined the Navy in February 1957. Drinking and theft of government property sent him to the brig, but it was a San Diego arrest on suspicion of burglary and auto theft that finally got Cole discharged on October 4, 1958. For reasons even he could not explain, Cole returned to his parents home in Richmond and endured a new round of abuse from his mother, rubbing his nose in the latest abject failure.
Cole remained with the family, working odd jobs and logging various minor arrests, until June 1, 1960. That night, prowling a local lovers lane, he approached two couples in a parked car and attacked them with a hammer. Convicted of assault with a deadly weapon on June 28, he was sentenced to 30 days on the county work farm.
It was felt by some that he was a possible sexual psychopath, potentially dangerous to the community. Staff made a diagnosis of Anti-Social Sociopathic Personality Disturbance on March 21st and recommended that he be discharged, Not Suitable, Not Mentally Ill and recommended that he apply for outside psychiatric treatment or voluntary admission to Atascadero State Hospital because of his sadistic, abnormal sexual tendencies.
Napa staffers released Cole on March 25, 1961. While serving a six-month sentence for auto theft, that July, Cole repeated his plea for psychiatric help. Judge Raymond Coughlin signed the committal order on October 6 and Cole entered Atascadero State Hospital 10 days later. Doctors there found his test results very puzzling and contradictory. Dr. Irwin Hart diagnosed Cole as a very passive-dependent person with a fa�ade of independence, and confusion concerning sexual identification. Cole was transferred to Stockton State Hospital for further testing and treatment on September 12, 1962. There, Dr. I.I. Weiss noted that He seems to be afraid of the female figure and cannot have intercourse with her first but must kill her before he can do it. Weiss diagnosed Coles condition as a schizophrenic reaction, chronic undifferentiated typeand released him on April 19, 1963 with an indefinite leave of absence to self.
Upon his release, Cole noted that his family was solicitous, to some extent, but they were really wishing I was elsewhere. Brother Richard had moved to Dallas with his wife, and Texas was suggested for a change of scene. LaVerne bought the bus ticket in May 1963 and Eddie headed south.
Soon after his release Cole met Neville Billy Whitworth, an alcoholic stripper whom he described as neurotic and unstable, just like me. It was the ultimate co-dependent relationship, complete with raging violence on both sides. Cole and Billy married in November 1963, soon after her part-time employerone Jack Rubymurdered the alleged assassin of President John Kennedy. The marriage was chaotic from day one, lust and anger fueled by alcohol, interrupted by arrests for drunkenness and domestic violence.
It came to a head in August 1965, Cole convinced that Billy was servicing men at the motel where they lived. Furious, Cole set the place on fire and was indicted for arson on August 19, convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment in March 1966. He served nine months and was released on January 5, 1967. Tired of Billy and their wasted life, he started drifting aimlessly, his travels marked by a series of arrests. An Oklahoma City court fined him $20 for vagrancy by pimping in April 1967. A month later he invaded the bedroom of a 11-year-old girl in Lake Ozark, Missouri and tried to strangle her as she slept. Her screams summoned help, and Cole was captured moments later by police, facing 10 years in prison on a charge of felonious assault with intent to ravish.
The public was so aroused, Cole recalled, that in another time frame, I would doubtless have been taken out and lynched. Instead, he pled guilty to a reduced charge of assault with intent to kill and received a five-year prison term. He was paroled on May 1, 1970, entirely unrepentant. If anything, he later admitted, I was worse.
Cole drifted back to San Diego, then to Reno, Nevada. Twice he tried to strangle women met in bars, but his victims escaped both times. On September 19, 1970 he surrendered to Reno police and confessed his urge to murder women. Detained on a charge of disorderly conduct, Cole was committed four days later to a state hospital at Sparks, Nevada. There, Dr. Felix Peebles diagnosed Cole as an anti-social personality with alcoholism, with compulsion to strangle and rape pretty females. By October 13 that diagnosis had changed to brand Cole a highly manipulative young man who is utilizing his difficulties with the law in the past and his threats of violence upon others to find shelter when he is out of funds or ways to get what he wants. Dr. Peebles ordered Cole released, with the following notations in his file:
Condition on Discharge: The same as on admission Prognosis: Poor Under disposition Peebles noted, He was discharged and placed on an Express Bus for Los Angeles where he was to change buses and go on to his home in San Diego, California. Eddie wasnt cured, but he was someone elses problem now.
And he had given up on seeking help.
Cole played the game to a point, training as a nurses aide, but he was appalled by local hospital conditions. Have you ever seen a patient eaten up with bed sores because someone didnt care enough to do their job? he wrote. And the verbal abuse was something else. I often thought of waylaying one of those nurses in the parking lot, killing her for the old folks, but unfortunately our classes were in the daytime.
Instead, he transferred his aggression to others. After three flings at psychiatry, Cole noted, My urges were stronger than ever but I wasnt concerned about it anymore. I just said to hell with it and waited to see what would happen. On May 7, 1971 he met Essie Buck in a San Diego tavern and strangled her in his car, leaving her body in the trunk overnight. Next morning, Cole remembered, I felt nothingnot elation, guilt, or any of the feelings thought to appease someone like me. Just cold nothing. He discarded the body on May 9, his thirty-third birthday.
Two weeks later, Cole would claim, he met another hard-drinking woman known only as Wilma and strangled her after a night on the town. He buried her corpse in the foothills outside San Ysidro, where it remains undiscovered today. His third victim, a week after Wilma, was killed and buried in similar fashion. If Cole ever knew her name, he had forgotten it years later, when he penned an account of the murder from prison.
In June 1971, while serving time for theft and drunk driving, Cole was questioned by San Diego homicide detective Robert Ring. Essie Buck was mentioned, startling Cole. He admitted sleeping with her on the night she died, but claimed he woke next morning to find her dead of unknown causes beside him. Cole had dumped her body in a panic, he claimed. It was farfetched, Cole wrote in 1985, but Ring bought it. Cole was released on schedule, in March 1972.
A short time later, hunting, he drove to San Ysidro on the Mexican border. Cole picked up two Hispanic women in a bar and took them for a ride. A few miles outside town, to drink more beer, but Cole had other plans. When one woman slipped away to relieve herself, he bludgeoned her companion with a hammer, then strangled the other upon her return. Afterward, he buried both women in the desert, two more victims who were never found.
In the summer of 1972, shortly after his release from jail on yet another drunk-driving charge, Cole met an alcoholic barmaid named Diana Pashal. They soon moved in together, although neither was monogamous. Dianas infidelity rankled, reviving memories of Coles mother, but it did not stop him from proposing marriage in July 1973. The union was nearly as tempestuous as his first, and Cole celebrated their first anniversary by fleeing to Nevada with a girlfriend.
Diana forgave him when Cole returned home a month later, in August 1974, and they agreed that no good would come of their relationship in San Diego. They picked Las Vegas on a whim and left to start a brand-new life.
For Cole, things were about to go from bad to worse.
While working oil rigs at Casper, Wyoming in August 1975, Cole met Myrlene Teepee Hamer. He noted the wedding ring on her finger and Hamers seeming disregard for what it meant. After hours of drinking they went for a drive, to find some privacy. Hamer had suggested sex, but Eddie wanted something else. He strangled her in the car, then left her on a grassy hillside, covered with an old sleeping bag. Her corpse was found by police on August 9, and Cole left town the next day, heading west.
Back in San Diego, Cole stayed briefly with Diana, then wound up in a local detox center after one of his drunken binges. Worse trouble followed when he stole a $1,500 government check from one of his fellow patients and tried to cash it for himself. Charged with mail theft in June 1976, he jumped bail but was soon recaptured and slapped with a new charge of unlawful flight. Conviction on both counts earned him a one-year sentence in February 1977. Paroled in April, he fled back to Las Vegas, a federal fugitive. A month later, he strangled prostitute Kathlyn Blum and dumped her body in a strangers backyard, where police recovered it on May 14, 1977.
Detectives had no leads in that case, and Cole stayed in town long enough to be jailed for car theft in North Las Vegas, on July 19, 1977. Cole made bail, then skipped his September court date and made his way to Oklahoma City. Nevada authorities waited until December to swear out a warrant for Coles arrest, too late to apprehend himor to stop him from killing again.
On the night before Thanksgiving, sitting in an Oklahoma City topless bar, Cole met a woman who agreed to spend the night with him. Somewhere in the middle of our making love, he later wrote, the booze kicked in, or else my mind went blankI cant say which. He woke at sunrise on November 24 to find the woman dead in his bathtub, both feet and her right arm severed and missing. Cole found those remnants in his refrigerator, while a steak sliced from the corpses buttocks lay in a skillet on the stove. Using kitchen knives and a hacksaw, he finished the dismemberment, placed her remains in plastic garbage bags and drove them to the city dump, where they presumably were burned.
That day, he later wrote, was something else.
But it was not the end.
From Oklahoma City, Cole drove to Texas and found work at Denver City. Unfortunately, the town was dry, but that didnt stop Cole from drinking whatever alcohol he could find. He was soon arrested for public drunkenness, and a fingerprint check revealed that he was wanted in California as a federal fugitive. One week later, Cole was headed back to San Diego, wearing chains.
Death TripOn March 8, 1978 Cole received a six-month jail sentence plus three years probation contingent on full-time employment and participation in an alcoholic rehab program. North Las Vegas dismissed his bail-jumping charges on Coles fortieth birthday, and Cole was freed on June 16, 1978.
Soon after his release, Cole reunited with Diana. We got along fine, he later wrote, but I was sleeping on the couch for several days until she finally invited me into the bedroom. Probation notwithstanding, Cole kept drinking and skated from one part-time job to another. He was jailed for drunkenness on October 25, slapped with another probation violation, then released on $2,000 bond. Police arrested him again on November 8, but neglected to inform his probation officer. A federal hearing in March 1979 continued his probation, while Cole continued his drinking and trolling for victims.
On August 27, 1979 Cole met Bonnie Sue ONeil in a local bar and took her back to the appliance shop where he was temporarily employed. Years later, Cole recalled their tryst as a night to end all screwing, but it ended when ONeil mentioned a need to phone her husband. Cole strangled her on the spot and dumped her body out back, throwing her clothes into a nearby garbage bin. Speaking in 1985, Cole and his former employers agreed that police on the case never came to the shop or questioned any of the staff.
Coles marriage was on its last legs by that time. On September 17, 1979 he strangled Diana at home, wrapped her body in blankets, and stowed it in a closet. A neighbor called police eight days later, to report Cole scrabbling around beneath his house. Patrolmen found him in the crawlspace, working on a grave-sized excavation, and they drove him to the local detox center. By the time he was released next morning, Coles mother-in-law had found Dianas corpse and the house was crawling with police, but he eluded them and caught a bus to Las Vegas.
In fact, he had nothing to fear from San Diego authorities. Autopsy results pegged Dianas blood-alcohol level at four times the legal limit, and her death was attributed to alcohol poisoning. The only person looking for Cole, so far, was his federal probation officer. A bench warrant for his arrest was issued on September 27, 1979.
Married in Las Vegas on December 16, 1979, Cole took his bride to Texas for a long-term honeymoon. He was stopped for driving without a valid license in early January 1980, and might have escaped with a warning, but a computer name-check turned up the federal bench warrant. Held as a persistent violator of probation, he wound up in Springfield, Missouri, at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. In August 1980 Dr. A.E. Miller filed the following report:
There is no evidence of psychosis or neurosis in Mr. Cole. Diagnostically he may be described as a character disorder. It is unlikely that major personality changes will occur. He does not appear motivated for any sort of treatment at this time.
In January 1984 Cole received a letter from California, advising him of his mothers death. A month later, on February 15, Nevada authorities formally announced their intent to extradite Cole and try him on capital murder charges. Cole waived extradition on March 30 1984, and Las Vegas detectives were sent to fetch him on April 9. In lieu of escape, Cole had decided he would rather die.
Cole had a simpler, more direct perspective. I believe in capital punishment, he declared. I dont see where [Pitaro] is going to come up with this stuff, because theres nothing good about me.
Coles penalty hearing convened on October 12, 1984, before a panel of three judges. Judge Leavitt was joined for the occasion by colleagues Richard Legarza and Norman Robinson. District Attorney Dan Seaton called as witnesses detectives from Las Vegas, Dallas, Missouri and Wyoming to confirm Coles admissions of serial murder. Two officers from San Diego also testified, but their confused descriptions of the several cases in their city added nothing to the presentation. Cole capped the testimony with his own on October 12, reminding the judges that within about five more years [he] would be eligible for parole in Texas (false), and if not that, I got very ample chances to escape from the Texas Department of Corrections.
The panel took Cole at his word and sentenced him to die for Marie Cushmans murder. Execution was barred in Kathlyn Blums death, since Nevada had no death penalty in May 1977. It hardly mattered, though.
In Coles case, one death sentence was enough.
JusticeCole was transferred from Las Vegas to Nevadas state prison at Carson City on November 6, 1984. Ironically, that morning brought an announcement from the wardens office that the prisons death chamberout of service due to gas leaks for the past five yearswas once again open for business. State legislators had saved themselves a $20,000 repair bill by voting for lethal injection in 1983, and the changeover was finally complete.
If Cole died on schedule, he would be Nevadas first inmate to get the needle.
Cole had just over three weeks to live.
He spent the time quietly, completing a handwritten autobiography that ran to some 100,000 words, granting permission for a Las Vegas neurosurgeon to study his brain after death, in an effort to explain his violent life. On December 4 he was moved to a seven-by-seven-foot last night cell, under 24-hour suicide watch to prevent him from cheating the state. The next day, three other death row inmates filed an appeal with the state supreme court on Coles behalf, declaring him legally insane, but the court rejected their petition in a special nighttime session.
At 1:43 a.m. on December 6, Cole entered the execution chamber before an audience of selected witnesses. By 2:05 a.m. he was strapped to the table with needles inserted in both arms. Warden George Sumner signaled for the execution to proceed, a lethal cocktail of chemicals flowing into Coles veins on command. His body convulsed at 2:07 a.m. and then relaxed. The prisons physician pronounced him dead three minutes later. Emerging from the theater of death moments later, Dan Seaton told the TV cameras, It is enjoyable to see the system work.
Unfortunately, in the case of Eddie Cole it took four decades, 16 wasted lives and countless dollars to complete the job.