34: Missing Person, Rachel Cooke
Howdy! This week I'd like to draw attention to the missing person's case of Rachel Cooke, of Georgetown Texas. The twentieth anniversary of her disappearance just went by.
Rachel Louise Cooke was nineteen years old when she disappeared from Georgetown Texas, near Austin, on January 10, 2002. A runner, she was training to keep up with her cross country team, crossing 4 miles everyday while home on winter break from school. She was a student Mesa Junior College in San Diego. She had a serious boyfriend in California, by the name of Greg West. He was even invited to spend the winter holiday with her in her family's home the December just passed, but returned to California for work, before Rachel disappeared. They'd been planning to move in together.
Rachel's mother, Janet, left for work at 8am, when she was still asleep on the couch. Rachel and Greg had a conversation at around 9-9:15am, while she was home alone. During their chat, she mentioned going for a run. She was seen on her run that morning, between 9:30am and 11am, and last seen about 200 yards from her door, near Neches Trail in the Northlake Subdivision of Georgetown during her cool down, by six neighbors. Those neighbors included a man spreading dirt for the plot of a house being constructed, and an elderly couple. Her father, Robert, returned home at 3pm to go shopping with her but she hadn’t returned. Rachel hadn't left a note, which was very unlike her. According to her parents, she always left a note, even just when going for a run. While some police departments have a policy to wait 24 or 48 hrs before investigating a missing person's case, that was not the policy in Georgetown on 01/10/2002. Despite that, Sheriff John Maspero waited. Robert began searching as soon as he knew Rachel was missing, driving the streets of Georgetown. Rachel's parents called hospitals, her friends, and the restaurant where she picked up odd shifts. The restaurant mistakenly gave an affirmative response, believing the parents were inquiring about a different Rachel.
There was ultimately a massive search, utilizing searchers of horseback, in cars, and in all-terrain vehicles, with the help of 200+ volunteers, and neighbors were interviewed. Initial searches covered over 50 square miles. Rangers, the Austin Police Department, and the FBI were called in, to investigate alongside the Williamson County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff at that time, John Maspero, was later forcibly retired, in unrelated shame, before passing away.
Robert Cooke took and failed a polygraph test, stating he did not know his daughter's whereabouts. Later, Janet, Rachel's mother, explained that that was because they already believed their daughter to be in heaven. Maspero, who grew up knowing Robert and Janet Cooke, refused to let police question them.
An unknown male, described as appearing Native American or Hispanic, with slicked back black hair. He appeared between his teens and early twenties, was seen speaking with a female jogger in that area during that time. The restaurant gave an affirmative, mistakenly as another Rachel was present. A “late-model white or blue Chevrolet Camaro or Pontiac Trans Am with white or black stripes along the hood and trunk” was also seen driving down Navajo Trail before turning southbound onto Neches Trail. Some witnesses claimed there were two men in the vehicle, which was also reported to have approached another jogger.
In 2006 Michael Keith Moore, an inmate in prison for killing a pregnant woman by the name of Christina Moore (no relation), confessed to the murder, after Rachel's case was brought up to him by FBI agent, Fred Rhea. Michael stated that he parked the truck he was driving, casing businesses, when he saw Rachel. Backtracking, he claimed to start jogging, approaching her beside his truck, where he knocked her unconscious with a hammer, kidnapped and r*ped her (WIX had trouble saving until I took out the bad word), before murdering her. To dispose of the body, he claimed to have wrapped her in a tarp, weighted it down with stones, and dropped her in Matagorda Bay. Later, he recanted, admitting that he’d made up his confession to gain preferential treatment in prison, mocking investigators for believing he'd be casing businesses after 9am when they'd already be open, and for believing a jogger wouldn't have found a fellow jogger, not dressed in athletic wear and wielding a hammer, suspicious. Michael Keith Moore remains a strong suspect.
In 2014, Robert Cooke passed way. Up until then, he obsessed over Rachel's case, which led to the end of his marriage. He worked with Equusearch in the hopes of finding her, while also helping with other cases, going so far as to travel to Aruba to assist with Natalie Holloway's case.
In 2017, the third sheriff to work Rachel's case, Robert Chody, essentially began re-investigating from scratch. Greg West, stated, with regards to how the two prior sheriff's handled that case, "What they told me is during my questioning is they truly think that she just took off with somebody...She's a young beautiful woman. I was like, How does that make sense? She's living her dream life in San Diego, having all these plans, and then to come back to Texas, to then run away?" By then, some relatives and neighbors ceased cooperating with police. Greg West brought up Rachel's ex boyfriend during an interview at around this time. The ex, Thomas, called Greg, weeping over Rachel. Thomas, described as emotional, who's relationship with Rachel imploded during a public argument at a party, is a person of interest in the case.
In July of 2017, investigators received a tip about a body in a field. Investigators excavated an area of 15 by 20 feet, digging 18 inches down. Cadaver dogs were brought in but they found nothing during their search.
Also in 2017, investigators searched Georgetown for jewelry once belonging to Rachel, near her former home.
In 2018, after investigators received a tip, a section of the 44 acre farmland, belonging to Troop Durgin Wright Properties LP, in Georgetown was excavated.
In April of 2018, a white 1998 Pontiac Trans Am, matching that described by witnessed after the initial disappearance, was located impounded in Dallas Texas, and if even bore links to up to four persons of interest. The vehicle was searched for forensic evidence.
September of 2018, the an object on the passenger's side, in the vehicle floor, tested positive for what could be blood. Given the time that has passed, that evidence was not conclusive.
In December of 2018, There was a search of relevant areas of Georgetown for further evidence linking those persons of interest, and their once-vehicle, to the case, but any evidence found has not been made public.
In July 2020, investigators received a tip that they felt merited a follow-up, but unable to get in touch with the provider of said tip, they turned to the press for help.
In August 2020, the press requested the person who provided the useful tip in July 2020, to please contact investigators.
In January of 2021, investigators announced a new person of interest, a man who who has since spoke of the case in the third person to his peer, who offered details of the case as yet unknown and unproven to the public. He is described as a white male who knew Rachel, who lived in Georgetown in 2002, at which point he was working with cattle, but who traveled to other cities in Texas.
Rachel is 5'3', Caucasian and at the time of her disappearance, was 115 pounds, and had blonde hair with auburn streaks. She was last seen wearing a green sports bra, a gray shirt tied around her waist, gray shorts or sweatpants, and white Asics or Adidas sneakers. She was also carrying a yellow Sony Walkman portable radio/cassette player with headphones. She has two heart-shaped cherries tattooed on her left shoulder and a black star tattooed on her left foot by her little toe. At the time she went missing, her ears were pierced in multiple places, with one piercing in the upper cartilage, and her navel was also pierced.
Investigators have looked into over 2000 tips, one of which, led investigators to the vehicle located in 2018. They strongly believe that this case will be solved by a tip. The FBI is offering up to $100,000 for the tip that solves this case. For more information on this case, please visit www.rachelcookesearch.org.
Every article/blog I've read on this case, has either said or implied, that Rachel never returned home from her run. However, hours passed between 11am when she was last seen alive, and 3pm when her father returned home, noticing her absence. Her parents insist she always left a note, even just for a casual run. That there wasn't a note when her father returned home that day means either Rachel didn't leave one before her run, or Rachel stopped home after her run. If the latter occurred, then when Rachel next left home that day, she did so unexpectedly. That then-Sheriff Maspero did not initially search her home nor question her parents means that any evidence in their household wouldn't have been investigated. Did she bring a peer into her home after her run? Who kidnapped her from her home? Was there an intruder waiting inside when she returned, who removed her note, before kidnapping her? Yes, attacking a person in their home would normally leave evidence, if not of blood, then of a mess—Belongings out of place, having been knocked aside during the struggle. However, if her kidnapper was armed, pointing a gun at her head and directing her to be silent, then out the door, there would be no mess. This is just a theory however. Most likely, Rachel's parent merely exaggerated how reliable Rachel was with regard to leaving notes, and her not leaving one before a run wasn't that unusual.
If you or anyone you know has information that might help solve this case, please call 512-948-2911 for The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, or the cold case tip line 512-943-5204. You can also remain anonymous by sharing information through Tips.fbi.gov or email@example.com.
Thank you for stopping by today. I put out a new blog post every Monday. Stay safe!