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Execution Date Set for Andrew Allen Cook, Convicted of 1995 Murder of Two Mercer University Students

PRESS ADVISORY

Execution Date Set for Andrew Allen Cook, Convicted of 1995 Murder of Two Mercer University Students

February 5, 2013

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens offers the following information in the case against Andrew Allen Cook, who is currently scheduled to be executed on February 21, 2013, at 7:00 p.m.

Scheduled Execution

On February 5, 2013, the Superior Court of Monroe County filed an order, setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Andrew Allen Cook may occur to begin at noon, February 21, 2013, and ending seven days later at noon on February 28, 2013. Cook has concluded his direct appeal proceedings and his state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.

Cook’s Crimes (1995)

The Georgia Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:

The evidence adduced at trial shows the following: at approximately midnight on January 2, 1995, Mercer University students Hendrickson and Cartagena were parked on a small peninsula known as “the Point,” which juts into Lake Juliette in Monroe County, north of Macon. Cook drove onto the Point, parked his Honda CRX near Hendrickson’s and Cartagena’s car, and shot them. Cook fired fourteen times with an AR-15 rifle from a distance of about forty feet and then moved closer and fired five times with a nine millimeter Ruger handgun. Hendrickson and Cartagena were each hit multiple times and killed. Cook then went to the passenger side of the victims’ car, removed Cartagena, and dragged her about 40 feet. He partially undressed her, knelt between her legs, and spit on her. Cook then drove away. The murders were completely random. Cook did not know the victims and there was no interaction between Cook and the victims before he killed them.

Several people parking or camping around Lake Juliette heard the shots, and the murders were reported to the police the next morning when some campers found the bodies. A couple parked near the Point when the shots were fired said they saw a 1980s-model Honda CRX parked near the entrance to Lake Juliette. Later, they saw headlights going onto the Point, heard shots, and observed the CRX speeding away from the Point. The police recovered .223 caliber and nine millimeter bullets and shell casings from the crime scene, and the State Crime Lab reported that the weapons used in the murders were probably an AR-15 rifle and a nine millimeter Ruger handgun. There was saliva mixed with tobacco dried on Cartagena’s leg, and the Crime Lab extracted DNA from the saliva. The police began looking for suspects who chewed tobacco, matched the DNA taken from the saliva, and owned or had access to a Honda CRX, an AR-15 rifle, and a nine millimeter Ruger pistol.

The investigation lasted almost two years. Many people were interviewed and dozens of suspects were excluded after they submitted blood or saliva samples to the Crime Lab, or allowed their weapons to be examined by a state firearms expert. In the fall of 1996, GBI Agent Randy Upton began tracking the purchasers of AR-15 rifles in the Macon area. He obtained a list of 108 people who bought AR-15 rifles from 1985 to 1995 from one of Macon’s most popular gun stores, and he started calling them and asking if they would give saliva samples and allow examinations of their rifles. On November 27, 1996, Agent Upton contacted Cook. Agent Upton told Cook he was conducting an investigation into the Lake Juliette murders and that Cook owned an AR-15 rifle in 1994 and 1995. Cook replied that he had “gotten rid of” his AR-15 in April 1994. Agent Upton stated that that was not possible because the records show that Cook did not buy his AR-15 until August 1994. Cook then became defensive and stated that his father was an FBI agent, and he did not have to cooperate. Agent Upton asked for a saliva sample, and Cook said he needed to talk with his father before giving a saliva sample. The conversation ended.

Agent Upton learned that Cook pawned his AR-15 rifle back to the gun store in May 1995, five months after the murders. The police also discovered that Cook had an acquaintance purchase a nine millimeter Ruger handgun for him in December 1993 at the same gun store, because Cook was too young to buy it himself. Cook sold the Ruger to a friend in July 1995. The police sought to obtain these weapons from their current owners. They also learned that Cook owned a 1987 Honda CRX at the time of the murders.

One of Cook’s friends, who worked with Cook at a diaper factory, testified that in late November 1996 he and Cook had a conversation about “the worst thing you ever did.” Cook said he had killed someone with an AR-15. The friend did not believe Cook, but asked why he did it. Cook replied that he did it “to see if I could do it and get away with it.”  Cook refused to provide any more details. The friend testified that the following day at work, Cook received a call on his pager, and left his work area to return the call.  Cook returned 15 minutes later and was “as white as a ghost.” Cook said “I got to go,” and spit the tobacco he had been chewing into a trash can. Cook said it was the GBI who had called and they wanted to question him about what he and the friend had talked about the day before, and test his saliva. He said, regarding the saliva, “that’s a DNA test right there, so they got my ass.” Another friend testified that Cook told him in late November 1996 that he needed to leave town because it was “getting hot.”

After going to Cook’s home and not finding him, Agent Upton called Cook’s father, John Cook, on December 4, 1996.  John Cook was an FBI agent and had been an FBI agent for 29 years. Agent Upton said he needed to ask Cook a few questions regarding the Lake Juliette murders, and asked John Cook for assistance in locating him. John Cook said he could probably contact his son. John Cook, who knew about the case from the media but had not worked on it, testified that he did not think his son was a suspect.

John Cook paged his son several times and at 11:00 p.m. Cook returned his calls. John Cook told his son the GBI was looking for him concerning the Lake Juliette murders and asked him if he knew anything about them. Cook replied, “Daddy, I can’t tell you, you’re one of them … you’re a cop.” John Cook said he was his father first and, believing his son may have been a witness, asked Cook if he was there during the shooting. Cook said yes. John Cook asked his son if he saw who shot them, and Cook replied yes. Although he still thought “maybe he was just there and saw who shot them,” John Cook asked his son if he shot them.  After a pause, Cook said yes. Cook told his father he was fishing at Lake Juliette and had an argument with the male victim. The male victim threatened him with a gun, and Cook shot the victims in self-defense. Cook realized that the male victim had only threatened him with a pellet gun, and he threw the pellet gun into the woods. John Cook urged his son to go to the authorities but Cook said he was going to run and “just disappear.” John Cook was worried that his son was going to kill himself.

John Cook was stunned by what his son had told him. After speaking with his wife, he called his friend and FBI supervisor, Tom Benson, who was at a conference in New Orleans. He and Benson decided that Benson would fly back to Georgia the next day and the two men would go to Monroe County Sheriff John Bittick, and John Cook would tell the sheriff what his son had told him. They arrived at the Monroe County sheriff’s office at about 4:00 p.m. on December 5, 1996.

At about 11:45 a.m. on December 5, 1996, Cook was arrested by a game warden for shooting deer and turkeys out of season and giving a false name. He was taken to the Jones County sheriff’s office. Agent Upton, who did not know about Cook’s admission to his father, learned that Cook was being held in Jones County for game violations. He drove to Jones County to question Cook about the Lake Juliette murders. When Agent Upton introduced himself and asked to speak with him about the murders, Cook blurted, “it’s been two years since the murders and you guys don’t have anything; I had a CRX; I had an AR-15; I had a Ruger P89; you guys are going to try to frame me.”  Cook added, “get my father and get me a lawyer and I’ll tell you what you want to hear.” The interview terminated. Agent Upton subsequently learned from Sheriff Bittick that John Cook was in Monroe County, and that Cook had made an admission to his father the night before. Agent Upton transported Cook to Monroe County.

After Cook arrived at the Monroe County sheriff’s office, John Cook asked Sheriff Bittick if he could speak with his son, and the sheriff agreed. Cook and his father had a private meeting. Both men were crying and John Cook hugged his son. John Cook told his son he did not believe that he told the whole truth on the phone. Cook replied that there was no pellet gun, that “I pulled in, the car was already there, and I just stopped and shot them.” Cook then dragged the female victim from the car to make it look like an assault or robbery. John Cook testified at trial about his son’s admissions.

The police recovered from the current owners the AR-15 rifle and nine millimeter Ruger handgun that Cook owned in January 1995. Ballistics testing revealed that they were the murder weapons. Cook’s DNA matched the DNA extracted from the saliva on Cartagena’s leg; the state DNA expert testified that only one in twenty thousand Caucasians would exhibit the same DNA profile.

The evidence was sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to find Cook guilty of two counts of malice murder and two counts of felony murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S. Ct. 2781, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560) (1979). The evidence was also sufficient to enable the jury to find the existence of the statutory aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.; O.C.G.A. § 17-10-35 (c) (2).

Cook v. State, 270 Ga. at 820-823 (1999).

The Trial (1997-1998)

Cook was indicted in the Superior Court of Monroe County, Georgia on February 17, 1997, for two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, and one count of armed robbery. On March 19, 1998, following a jury trial, Cook was convicted of both counts of malice murder and both counts of felony murder.  The jury’s recommendation of a death sentence for the murder of Michele Lee Cartagena was returned on March 19, 1998.  Cook received a consecutive life sentence for the murder of Grant Patrick Hendrickson.

Cook filed a motion for new trial on March 23, 1998, and an amendment thereto on June 4, 1998. This motion, as amended, was denied by the trial court on July 10, 1998.

The Direct Appeal (1999)

The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Cook’s convictions and death sentence on March 19, 1999.  Cook v. State, 270 Ga. 820, 514 S.E.2d 657 (1999). Cook filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on November 1, 1999.  Cook v. Georgia, 528 U.S. 974 (1999).

State Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2000-2008)

Cook, represented by the Georgia Resource Center, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia on May 9, 2000. Cook filed an amendment thereto on March 7, 2002. An evidentiary hearing was held on October 8-9, 2002. On October 2, 2007, the state habeas corpus court entered an order granting Cook state habeas corpus relief as to his death sentence finding that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The state habeas corpus court denied Cook relief as to his convictions. The State appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which unanimously reversed the habeas corpus court’s order and reinstated Cook's death sentence on June 30, 2008.  Schofield v. Cook, 284 Ga. 240, 663 S.E.2d 221 (2008).     

Federal Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2009-2010)

Cook, represented by the Georgia Resource Center, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on January 16, 2009.  On March 18, 2010, the district court denied Cook federal habeas corpus relief. The district court denied a motion to alter and amend judgment on June 14, 2010. The district court granted Cook a certificate of appealability on August 26, 2010.

11th Circuit Court of Appeals (2011-2012)

The case was orally argued before the Eleventh Circuit on November 21, 2011. On April 20, 2012, the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion which denied relief.  Cook v. Warden, 677 F.3d 1133 (11th Cir. 2012). Cook filed a petition for panel rehearing, which was denied on June 21, 2012.

United States Supreme Court (2012-2013)

Cook filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied January 22, 2013.  Cook v. Humphrey, 2013 U.S. LEXIS 1029 (2013).