Local News

Sources: Convicted Felon Confessed to 5 Unsolved Murders

Posted November 27, 2007
Updated December 20, 2007

— A convicted felon charged in five unsolved murders in Wake County confessed to committing the crimes, sources tell WRAL, but authorities withheld details.

Amid heavy security, Samuel James Cooper, 30, of 2300 Creech Road, made his first appearance in court Tuesday afternoon. He was quiet, said very little and showed no emotion as the judge read the charges against him, appointed an attorney for him and denied him bond.

His next court date is scheduled for Dec. 18.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Raleigh police also charged a woman, identified as Regina Nicole Swan, in connection with two armed robberies last month at a Bojangles’ restaurant and Food Lion — heists to which authorities said they believe Cooper might be linked.

Swan was in the Wake County Jail Tuesday evening under a $250,000 bond and was scheduled to make her first court appearance Wednesday.

As of Tuesday night, Cooper, had not been charged in those robberies. Sources told WRAL that he is also a suspect in a series of robberies across the Raleigh area.

Raleigh police and Wake County sheriff's investigators said evidence and investigative information collected before and after Cooper's arrest last week in connection with a Garner bank robbery led to the charges in the homicides, which occurred from May 2006 to last month.

Most of the slayings involved robberies, authorities said.

"I don't ever remember us charging anyone with five homicides before," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said. "And the particularly interesting (thing) is, these are all charged on five dates as opposed to one event."

Wake County sheriff's investigators say Cooper shot and killed Ossama "Sam" Haj-Hussein, 43, inside the In & Out Food Mart on Creech Road on May 12, 2006.(Read what a criminal profiler has to say about Cooper.)

On June 3, 2006, Raleigh police found LeRoy Jernigan, 41, of Clayton, dead inside Circus Restaurant on Wake Forest Road in Raleigh, where he worked as a cleaning contractor.

This year, on April 27, Timothy David Barnwell, 34, died at WakeMed after police found him outside his second-story apartment at Windsor Falls Apartments. Police say his ankles and wrists were bound and that he jumped off his apartment's balcony to escape and might have tried to crawl away before he was shot multiple times.

And last month, a homeless man, Ricky High, 48, was shot and killed near St. Augustine's College; another man was injured. Two days later, on Oct. 14, Tariq Hussain, 52, was found dead inside Bobby's Grocery on Garner Road.

"These murders violently took victims from their families and friends," Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison and Maj. Ken Mathias, of the Raleigh Police Department, said in a joint news release issued Tuesday.

"The fact that they occurred is as deeply saddening as it is irrevocable, but we are grateful for the relentless, cooperative work of many people that brought this suspect to justice."

Willoughby and Harrison credited "a lot of good police work and a little bit of luck" for Cooper's being charged.

"When something like this does break, it means a lot that we've all worked together," Harrison said. "We've shared this information, and boom – all of a sudden, there it is."

Authorities said they did not anticipate making further comments about the case or how investigators linked Cooper to the homicides because of "the magnitude and complexity of the cases and because of the ongoing investigation of each of them."

More Charges for Cooper?

Garner police arrested Cooper on Nov. 21 after he allegedly robbed a Bank of America at 547 Benson Road and led police on a brief chase before running inside a Domino's Pizza distribution center, where his mother works. (Read more about the man who helped police find Cooper.)

He was there for nearly an hour before he surrendered and was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and felony speeding to elude arrest

That was the latest in a series of alleged crimes over the last six weeks.

In addition to the October deaths of High and Hussain, Cooper also faces charges in connection to a home invasion and shooting in Reidsville on Nov. 4 and is a suspect in another shooting case in Rockingham County three weeks earlier, authorities there said.

According to court records, Cooper has a criminal record dating from 1993 in Wake County. It includes 10 arrests, 19 charges, including assault on a police officer, escape from prison, robbery, assault on a female, drug charges and larceny.

In 1999, Cooper was one of three inmates who overpowered a guard and escaped from custody while on a Wake County inmate work crew. He was apprehended a few days later.

At that time, he was serving a 20-year sentence for armed robbery, assault and drug charges.

Having served 12 years with at least 20 infractions, he was released from prison in February 2006 for good behavior, three months before Haj-Hussein's death.

Department of Correction spokesman Keith Acree said the release was under sentencing guidelines in place prior to Cooper's conviction.

Before Cooper's arrest last week, friends of Barnwell said they had no reason to believe his slaying homicide was anything but random.

"There was no indication, ever, that this might be connected with any other murder at all," said Rev. Diane Corlett, pastor of The Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, where Barnwell attended.

Authorities had publicly announced earlier this year that Jernigan's and Haj-Hussein's deaths might have been connected, but there was no other indication that any of the others were related.

Arrest Brings New Chapter for Victims' Families

Family members of some of the murder victims said they were informed on Monday that Cooper had been identified as a suspect and would be formally charged Tuesday.

"I feel a bit relieved, but I think his arrest is good for the community at-large as well," said Hussain's son, Khurram Tariq. "Because you know someone who is dangerous has been taken off the streets. So, we all feel a bit secure."

"The news brings closure to the family. It's very helpful," he said Tuesday, adding that he hopes the suspect, if convicted, never gets out of prison again.

"We have a great peace of mind knowing he's off the streets," Jernigan's sister, Chasity Jernigan, said.

She said she and her family waited 17 months for a break in the case. Since that time, they worked to keep the case in the public eye, hosting a carnival and concert and distributing fliers to generate new leads.

Jernigan's older brother, John Jernigan, said, however, the news of Cooper's arrest did not feel the void like he had hoped.

"Now, we have to deal with the next chapter – the court trials, and how he did it, and why he did it – that stirs up more emotions," he said. "The pain is still there."

Partly, they said, because of Cooper's extensive criminal record.

"If he was put in prison and stayed there like he should have been, my family and these other families would not be going through what we're going through right now," Chasity Jernigan said.


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  • garnertoy Nov 28, 2007

    Im just glad hes off the streets

  • gopanthers Nov 28, 2007

    cghsmom - You know - I thought the same exact thing yesterday. He's already confessed to 5 murders. Who knows maybe (if he did) he will confess to more soon. But for right now I hold nothinng against him except for the 5 needdless murders he has already confessed to.

  • PDMARTIN Nov 28, 2007


    This man is evil so don't start playing the pity card.

  • PDMARTIN Nov 28, 2007

    This man is 30 yrs old and has already spent 12 of those 30 in prison. Not only should they have kept him, but they should put him under it. I do wonder though if he is confessing to all these crimes to sensationalize himself. Imagine being a self-confessed serial killer. Of course he can't make money off of it but he would certainly go down in history. Hopefully he won't last long in jail, whether it be by death penalty or by other immates.

  • oneday8035 Nov 28, 2007

    Might not be the right guy...he confessed babyphat. I seriously doubt that there is anyone posting on here that would have to "clean up our own houses" before passing judgement on this animal. That is saying that someone posting here is even in the same species as that monster. I don't doubt that there are way too many people in this world that are that cold but I highly doubt that your post reached any of them.

  • kdogg Nov 28, 2007

    cghsmom...that is the first thing I thought of when I heard he committed all these crimes. Someone hopefully will look into that.

  • gopanthers Nov 28, 2007

    babyphat37 - I certainly understand your feeling on this matter and I mean no dis-respect but he did "confess". Is that not truth enough?

  • humbleblaklady Nov 28, 2007

    "Where is the hate crime outcry? Not a word."
    Reb3Flag----What are you talking about? This guy killed blacks, whites, and people of other nationalities. Unless you can say he has a "hatred of HUMAN life"? Tell me how you get a "HATE CRIME" out of this idiot?

  • avidreader Nov 28, 2007

    Hot topic, and it should be. Why was he out in the first place?

  • lastchance Nov 28, 2007

    I want to thanks everyone for their prayers and comments, all this will be printed out and taken to court when the time is right, Im the mother of Leroy jernigan in which Mr. cooper thought it fit to murder my son. Hope the punishment fits the crime, I wrote another comment but they didnt print that one.. but thanks everyone, and most of all thanks for the one that called 911 that led to his arrest.... jernigan family