How FBI agent sent his son to Death Row

THEY DO not come much more dedicated than John Cook. Dedicated as a lawman - in his home city of Macon, Georgia, he was an FBI agent for 29 years - as a Christian and as a father. Never could he have imagined how those three decent loyalties would one day rip him, his life and his family apart.

For almost three decades, Mr Cook, 55, would have these words for his children as he left home each morning. "I'm going out to make the streets of America safe for little children, pretty women and old dogs". Glib words for sure, said with tongue half in cheek, but words he earnestly believed in.

One time, Mr Cook and his colleagues failed the city. That was the night of 2 January 1995, when two university students were shot dead as they sat in their car in a lovers' lane area at nearby Lake Juliette. It was only on 4 December 1996, that the Macon police, through gun-sale records, found a suspect. He lived in a trailer near the lake. Name: Andrew Cook.

Andrew was John Cook's son, now 23, and that was the beginning of the agent's nightmare. That day, he received a phone call from Andrew. This is how Mr Cook later recalled asking his son about the night of the murders.

"He was hesitant, and finally said, `Daddy, I can't tell you. You're one of them, a cop'. I said, `Andy, I'm your father. Do you know anything?'" As the conversation proceeded, the boy said that yes, he did. Next, Andrew admitted he had been at the scene. Then, girding himself, John Cook asked the fateful question. "Did you shoot them?" Andrew said that he had.

It was a moment, Mr Cook recalled, that "wrenched my heart out. I felt like the world crashed in on me". But what was to ensue would prove more painful still. Unable to put aside his commitment to the law and to God, even for his own child, he accompanied the boy the next day to turn himself in.

Two weeks ago, Andrew Cook went on trial for two counts of first degree murder. Because of that one conversation - the telephone confession - John Cook found himself in court as the star witness for the prosecution.

The trial, in Macon's courthouse, lasted barely a week. With the words of the father in its ears as well as DNA evidence produced by the prosecution, the jury took two hours to reach its verdict: guilty. Judge Johnnie Caldwell said that the killing of the two young people, Michelle Cartagena, 19, and Grant Hendrickson, 20, was the most senseless he had ever seen.

One more task remained for the distraught father: to plead with the jury in the sentencing hearing the next day not to spare his son from execution. Moving the court to tears and crying himself, he said: "I was busy looking out the front door for evil. But it came in the back door and consumed my son."

He went on: "Yesterday, I sat here and talked to you as the cop, and now I want to talk to you as the father." Asking jurors to accept that there had to be a "kernel of value, of goodness" deep in his son, he concluded: "I knew it would probably be my words that would send him to the electric chair."

He had guessed right. Andrew Cook's confession, given in trust from a son to a father, was too much for the jury to ignore; it showed no hesitation in recommending the death sentence. Judge Caldwell duly obliged and Andrew Cook is now on Georgia's Death Row.

Cook Sr, who resigned from the FBI in February and is now an investigator in the local district attorney's office, has since told the Atlanta Constitution that he survived the trial "not because I am any hero or have special courage. You do what you have to, and I have a strong belief in God.

"God is not finished with the final chapter in any of our lives. I don't know what the final chapter will be for Andy's life, but somehow, somewhere, there will be a purpose."

Does he regret reporting that December telephone call to the police? No. But, he adds, "I probably would not have gone into such detail that I would be the star witness against him."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all