Man is accused of having 2 wives Hunt begins as he misses hearing

June 15, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Authorities began searching yesterday for a 50-year-old Nebraska native accused of being married to two women for about nine years.

Thomas John Cooper failed to appear yesterday at an Annapolis court hearing to notify him officially that he is charged with bigamy. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

Mr. Cooper, whose addresses were listed as the first block of Fairways Lakes Drive in Dover, Del., where he lived with one woman, and the 300 block of Volley Court in Arnold, where he lived with another woman, was scheduled to appear before Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme.

Mr. Cooper was unavailable yesterday, but police said he had two wives for about nine years.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said only two or three men have been charged with bigamy in the past 20 years in Anne Arundel County.

"It's rare, but it does happen," he said.

Marriage records show Mr. Cooper married Mary Suzanne Watters on June 8, 1984, in a ceremony at the Anne Arundel County Courthouse presided over by an assistant county clerk.

In her application for the marriage license, Ms. Watters said she was 25 and he was 41, that they lived together on the 200 block of Prince George St. in Annapolis and that both were single.

In an unusual handwritten notation at the bottom of the application, she asked courthouse personnel "Not To Publish" the marriage notice in local newspapers.

According to charging documents, Mr. Cooper had married the former Jean O'Keefe on June 11, 1965, at the Asbury Methodist Church in New Castle County, Del.

Neither Mr. Cooper nor Jean Cooper, could be reached yesterday. And Mary Cooper declined to comment.

Maryland State Police Detective Sgt. David Michaels said Mr. Cooper admitted to the offense when he was charged in April.

He said Mr. Cooper told police he was an X-ray technician at Harbor Hospital Center, but a hospital spokeswoman said yesterday that no one by that name ever worked at the facility.

Bigamy carries a maximum nine-year prison sentence.

In 1962, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld a five-year sentence meted out in a Baltimore criminal court to Earl Thomas Braun for bigamy.

The court found that Braun had "made no effort," when he married in 1961, to find out if he was divorced from the woman he had married in Pittsburgh six years before.

But prosecutors say such stiff penalties are unlikely these days.

The last case in the county involved a former Army sergeant, who was charged after a wife living in Anne Arundel contacted his superior officer at his Virginia Army base.

Frederick E. Welk Jr. was sentenced in 1982 to three years' supervised probation by Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr.

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