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Police detective says suspect confessed to murders

Posted November 16, 2009
Updated April 9, 2010

— A convicted felon accused of killing five people in a string of robberies confessed to investigators and provided them with details of the crimes that were never made public.

That's according to a Raleigh police homicide detective who testified Monday during a motions hearing in which defense attorneys asked a judge to suppress their client's confession because it was coerced.

Samuel Cooper Police: Convicted felon confessed to slayings

Samuel James Cooper was arrested Nov. 21, 2007, after he allegedly robbed a bank in Garner. Investigators found a 9 mm handgun that the State Bureau of Investigation linked to the slayings, which dated to May 2006.

Detective Amanda Salmon testified that Cooper initially denied being involved in the homicides but later confessed after prosecutors agreed to dismiss a charge against his father, who had been arrested on a count of possession of a stolen firearm by a felon.

Among the victims are LeRoy Jernigan, 41, who was found dead June 3, 2006, inside Circus Restaurant on Wake Forest Road in Raleigh.

Salmon testified that Cooper said Jernigan's shooting was a "misobservation" and that he wasn't sure why he shot him. Cooper provided information to detectives that would be known only by someone who had been at the crime scene, she said.

"(He was asked) why he shot him, and he said he couldn't remember the reason, right now," Salmon said. "(The detective) asked, 'How many times did you shoot him?' He said, 'I think once or twice.'"

In addition to Jernigan's death, Cooper is charged with murder in the slayings of Ossama "Sam" Haj-Hussein, 43; Timothy David Barnwell, 34; Ricky High, 48; and Tariq Hussain, 52.

Salmon testified about other details of Cooper's confessions. Among them:

Cooper said High's shooting death on Oct. 12, 2007, near St. Augustine's College was "a mistake." He allegedly told investigators that he started shooting at a group of gang members after one of them made an inappropriate comment to a female friend. He had to kill High, Salmon testified, because High could identify him.

In Hussain's Oct. 14, 2007, death at Bobby's Grocery on Garner Road, Cooper told investigators where he parked his car. "Everything he talked about were not facts that had been released to the media," Salmon testified.

Salmon also testified that Cooper admitted to killing Haj-Hussein in the back of the In & Out Food Mart on Creech Road in Raleigh on May 12, 2006, because he did not want Haj-Hussein to be able to identify him.

Cooper told investigators that he thought Barnwell would be a "good target," because he was "moving lots of pot," Salmon said. He said he knocked on the door of Barnwell's apartment on April 27, 2007, restrained Barnwell with duct tape and handcuffs, Salmon testified.

At some point, Barnwell jumped over the balcony – "The joker was on the ground," Salmon recalled Cooper saying. Cooper shot over the balcony and later wiped down the apartment to remove any fingerprints.

Investigators also testified that Cooper was unemotional when he talked about the killings. During Monday's hearing, he frequently smiled and laughed.

Jernigan's family was also present, and it was the first time they had seen Cooper in person.

"We wanted Samuel Cooper to know that (Leroy) was not just some dude – that he was a human being – and (Cooper) took a very important part of our family away from us," his sister, Chasity Jernigan, said.

"It's a daily struggle, something you hope you never have to face. This is something we don't wish on our worst enemies," she continued.

The motions hearing is expected to last several days, attorneys said.

The case was expected to go to trial in September, but both the defense and state have continually asked for the date to be moved. Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden said there are 64,000 pages of discovery.

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

He was last released from prison in 2006.


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  • Lead by Example Nov 17, 2009

    I hope the confession does NOT get thrown out. Guilty is guilty, plain and simple. This defendant needs a death sentence or five consecutive life terms without parole.

    I hope for thd death penalty, as it is the only guaranteed way that somebody cannot be released to terrorize society again in the future.

  • rcrdngcountry Nov 17, 2009


  • Journey985 Nov 17, 2009

    Landshark - and others that failed to READ and COMPREHEND the story...."Cooper initially denied being involved in the homicides but later confessed after prosecutors agreed to dismiss a charge against his father, who had been arrested on a count of possession of a stolen firearm by a felon." The defense attorney is arguing that the only reason he confessed is to get his father out of trouble, this could be construed as "COHERSION" Thank you all for playing!!!

  • davidbh61255 Nov 17, 2009

    Let's rehabilitate him again!!

  • commandokidd Nov 16, 2009

    If he gets off this time with a light sentence, then there is something wrong.

  • onyourheels2 Nov 16, 2009

    wow! it's amazing that you have to go to college to be a lawyer.

  • familyfour Nov 16, 2009

    So, if ya throw out his confession, do all the people magically come back to life?


    Our system SUCKS

  • jrfergerson Nov 16, 2009

    so much for our wonderful justice system. send them back on the street to kill,rape or rob someone else. GREAT JOB hopefully it will not be the DA

  • Unaffiliated Patriot Nov 16, 2009

    Liberal thinking, and allowing Hollywood to redefine our standards brought us to this point in society. Now...put them in their place and take them out of power, or ,live with these consequences and stop whining about how screwed up this country is.

  • HL Nov 16, 2009

    I beleive any lawyer that wants to free a known killer should have to offer their home as a place to stay for 30 days. Let's see how comfortable they are with these scum around their wife and kids. Better yet, same goes for the detainees from GITMLO, Mr. Obama. Would you let them stay at the White House with the Mrs. and the 2 babies? doubt it. Politics suck!