Arundel man sentenced to life

Random killing of a stranger in a park in 2004 leads to the maximum term for 20-year-old

June 07, 2006|By ANDREA F. SIEGEL | ANDREA F. SIEGEL,SUN REPORTER

Two families wept in an Annapolis courtroom yesterday, as a judge meted out the maximum sentence to a Severn man convicted of the random killing of a stranger walking in a park.

"No, no!" wailed Mayora Cooks, moments after her son, Terry Cooks Jr., was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for the murder of a 52-year-old man who had gone for a walk in Provinces Park on a spring afternoon in 2004.

The family of the victim, David Brown, cried also, saying that they remain stung by their loss and that two families have been devastated by a slaying for which there is no rational explanation.

Cooks, who turned 20 yesterday and was 17 at the time of the killing, appeared to wipe away a tear after Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Michele D. Jaklitsch rebuffed his lawyer's efforts to secure a sentence that would give Cooks hope of leaving prison alive.

"This was a killing simply to kill another human being," Jaklitsch said. "It is the most chilling of statements I could possibly have read. ... He had absolutely no remorse," she said, referring to Cooks' confession.

Cooks told detectives, "I went to the park to shoot someone." His reaction to learning that the victim was clinging to life was that it was "like he was a witness," the statement says. Asked how he felt after the shooting, Cooks told police, "I felt sorry for him at first, but then I didn't worry about it," according to the statement. He was arrested as he was to start his senior year at Meade High School. One of Cooks' friends, Anthony Switzer, was convicted of a similar killing and is serving 40 years in prison.

His abdomen shredded by three bullets on April 7, 2004, Brown, an emergency room technician, reached his home near the park and called 911. He endured more than 15 surgeries and received more than 120 pints of blood before he died Sept. 15, 2004. His wife, Terry Brown, told the judge that as he lay dying he asked her, "Will you hold my hand? It's time for me to go."

"I feel like I am half of a whole now," she said after the sentencing, saying that Cooks robbed her husband of a happy future.

Sweepstakes devotees, David and Terry Brown were wed in 2000 on a sweepstakes-lovers cruise, and honeymooned twice more, as each had won a trip through sweepstakes. They wrote and self-published a book of sweepstakes advice in 2002.

His stepdaughter, Rachel Sperry, said the man whom she loved as a father died before walking her down the aisle or holding the child she is expecting.

Said Madge Brown, the victim's mother, "No joy comes [from the sentence]."

On his lawyer's advice, Cooks said nothing during yesterday's hearing. An appeal is likely.

Cooks' mother and others described him as a respectful young man from a nice family in a nice neighborhood of Severn, a teenager who watched out for his younger brother. A neighbor, George Wilson, told Jaklitsch that when Cooks turned 17, he began hanging out with a problem crowd.

Cooks' attorney, Assistant Public Defender William Davis, argued that Cooks, who had no prior record, was an excellent candidate for rehabilitation. Later, he said he expects to ask a judicial panel to shorten the sentence.

A teacher who instructed Cooks in the county jail concurred.

"I am going to write [Jaklitsch] a letter," said Frances Thomas. "There is always a possibility that a person can change his or her mind."

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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