Family and friends puzzled by cook's beating death Fliers seeking information circulated in E. Baltimore

August 11, 1996|By Joe Mathews and Edward Lee | Joe Mathews and Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

It wasn't hard to locate Michael Wayne Cole. He was either sleeping in his Mount Vernon apartment, cooking meals at the Brass Elephant where he worked, or dancing the nights away at various clubs on North Charles Street.

"I knew where he was at all times," said his roommate, Terri Lavenstein. "I never had to look for him."

That's why relatives and friends are baffled about Cole's mysterious death after a beating in an East Baltimore neighborhood at least an hour's walk from the tiny haven he called home.

"I'm really confused about the whole thing," said Kevin Crosby, a close friend. "This has been a very emotional roller coaster ride."

Friends are circulating more than 400 fliers asking for information about the 26-year-old chef, who was declared brain dead at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center a week ago today. Police found Cole against a chain-link fence in the 5000 block of Wright Ave. the previous Friday morning.

He apparently had been struck repeatedly with a blunt object, police said.

A resident told a Northeastern District officer about 3: 30 a.m. that he saw a man bleeding profusely from his head and staggering in the the residential street near the Armistead Gardens neighborhood. The officer found the victim, who was unresponsive to the officer's questions and gentle shaking, said homicide Detective Martin Young.

The victim, who was positively identified as Cole, was taken to the hospital with brain damage and bruises to his face and left leg. Doctors stabilized him for several hours, but Cole suffered a heart attack about 10 that night.

Billy Cole, the victim's father, said his son's brain soon ruptured and left him brain dead. Cole was declared dead at 9: 24 a.m. Aug. 4.

"This has hurt all of us," said Billy Cole, who watched alongside his wife, Kathy, and four other children as his son was buried in Elizabethton, Tenn., Thursday. "This is really hard."

Cole's father of Elizabethton said he had talked to his son the previous Thursday about 1 a.m. The two had discussed Cole's impending two-week vacation with his parents, a chance for him to go fishing and to show his parents what he had learned while cooking at the Brass Elephant since he moved to Baltimore two years ago.

"He was really looking forward to it," Billy Cole said. "He was all happy and making big plans."

The last person to see Cole was Lavenstein, who had moved into an apartment with him in the 900 block of North Calvert St. two months ago. Lavenstein said she left Cole at the apartment about 11: 30 p.m. to meet a friend at a local bar, where Cole liked to drink beer and flirt with women.

But Cole declined to go, telling Lavenstein he wanted to stay in. Friends said they think Cole drank four bottles of beer that were in the refrigerator and went to buy more.

But they are puzzled about why Cole, who didn't own a car or have a driver's license and hated to spend money on taxicabs, would walk an hour away to a neighborhood where none of his friends lived.

"That is the most frustrating part," said Mary McGillin, who had known Cole for about nine months. "All of the people close to him know that he doesn't know anyone there. It's inconceivable why he would be there."

Sean Holland said Cole was an intense and fun-loving man, who enjoyed hanging out at the 1722 and the Club Charles, both on North Charles Street. But he did have a tendency to be obnoxious, Holland said.

"He would flirt with a girl whose boyfriend was right there," Holland said. "The guy would be hating him, but the girls would be really into it."

Friends are using their money to make the fliers, which show a single photograph of the red-haired victim. They have posted the fliers around the bars and clubs Cole had frequented and in the neighborhood where he was found.

Young said he hopes the fliers will prove useful to his investigation.

"Any information anyone can provide would be most helpful," he said. "Hopefully, someone will shed some light."

Anyone with any information can call 396-2100.

Pub Date: 8/11/96

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