Writing on Bonistall's wall revealed
Cooke could face death
Published: Monday, October 31, 2005
Updated: Sunday, July 19, 2009 05:07
In his first face-to-face encounter with his daughter's accused killer, Mark Bonistall, father of sophomore Lindsey Bonistall, listened somberly as prosecuters presented chilling details about her murder and rape.
James Cooke Jr., 34, who did not speak during the hearing, is accused of first-degree murder, rape and arson in the May 1 killing.
Bonistall, 20, was gagged with a T-shirt, strangled with another shirt and bound with an electrical cord, Newark Police Detective Andrew Rubin testified in a Superior Court hearing Friday. She also suffered injuries to her eyes, chin and upper chest.
Bonistall was found raped and strangled in her bathtub Sunday morning during an early morning investigation of a fire in her Towne Court apartment. Cooke, a Newark resident who lived on Lincoln Drive near Bonistall's apartment, was arrested and charged with the crime in June.
Before setting Bonistall's apartment on fire, Cooke allegedly scrawled "KKK" in blue magic marker near the front door of her apartment, Rubin said. Reports of such white-supremacist writing had long been rumored but were only recently confirmed by police.
An analysis of handwriting samples revealed that the writing on the wall is consistent with that of Cooke's. In addition, several other phrases were found throughout the apartment. These include:
n "More bodies will be turn in up [sic] dead"
n "White power"
n "We want are [sic] weed back. Give us are [sic] drugs back"
Rubin testified that police found no evidence Bonistall's murder was drug related.
DNA obtained from Bonistall's body match Cooke's, prosecuters said. There is a one in 676 quintillion chance the samples, taken from semen and skin scrapings beneath Bonistall's fingernails, were not Cooke's. Also found at the murder scene was an empty bleach container, allegedly used to get rid of DNA evidence.
In addition, a 911 call made to Newark Police May 2 was played during the hearing.
In the call, a man claimed that four people were involved with the arson, rape and murder, that the crime was drug-related and that a copy of a key to Bonistall's apartment was obtained by paying a Towne Court employee $500.
Eric Schwab, owner of Towne Court Apartments, said the claim that a key to Bonistall's apartment was sold to Cooke is absurd.
"It would be extremely preposterous for anyone to believe any statement that a psychotic individual such as Cooke would claim," he said.
Rubin said a voice sample taken from Cooke is being analyzed, but that Cooke's roommate, who is also his partner and the mother of his three children, said the voice on the 911 tape is Cooke's.
O'Neill questioned whether this was sufficient evidence to show that Cooke made the call.
Despite mounting evidence, Public Defender Brendan O'neill said he intends to pursue a full defense for the accused killer.
"The case is far from over," he said after the hearing.
Friday's court appearance was scheduled to determine if Cooke would be eligible for the death penalty if convicted and also whether he could be held without bail. Superior Court Judge Jerome Herlihy ruled yes to both.
A trial has been scheduled for September.
Cooke has also been linked to two home invasions in Newark around the time of Bonistall's murder.
On April 30, a man broke into a house on the 200 block of West Park Place at approximately 1:18 a.m., and confronted a 27-year-old female university student who lives there. He then demanded money from the resident, and she handed him an undisclosed amount of money.
Former Police Chief Gerald Conway said the suspect also obtained an ATM card from the resident and attempted to use it at the Wilmington Trust ATM machine on Elkton Road at approximately 4:15 a.m.
Police were able to compile information for a sketch from a surveillance tape obtained from the ATM vestibule, and from the victim's description. This sketch led to Cooke's arrest, after two employees at the Payless shoe store where he worked recognized the man in the drawing as Cooke.
In another burglary, which occurred April 27 at a Towne Court apartment near Bonistall's, Cooke allegedly stole several jewelry items and DVDs. He then wrote phrases like "We'll be back" and "Don't mess with my men" in red nail polish.
Cooke has also been charged with 18 criminal accounts in a series of Atlantic City, N.J., home invasions in early June, Atlantic City Police said. He has an extensive criminal history in New Jersey dating back to at least 1992, the earliest year that the New Jersey Department of Corrections can release information about his criminal past.
Cooke has served more than five years since 1992 in New Jersey prisons for various crimes, including theft and distributing drugs on a school campus. Cooke moved to Delaware after being paroled from a three-and-a-half-year sentence in New Jersey.
The case was brought to the Court of Common Pleas in June, where evidence was presented that linked a sample of Cooke's DNA to that found on Bonistall's body. In June, Rubin testified that Cooke entered Bonistall's second-floor apartment through a locked sliding door, which opened to a balcony 10 feet off the ground. The lock was forced open, though police were not sure how.
Cooke maintains his innocence.