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State continues building case against Cooper

Posted March 23, 2010
Updated March 25, 2010

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— Jurors heard more audio Tuesday of police interviews with accused serial killer Samuel Cooper.

Cooper, 33, faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Ossama "Sam" Haj-Hussein, LeRoy Jernigan, Timothy Barnwell, Ricky High and Tariq Hussain. All were shot to death between May 2006 and October 2007. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

RPD's Miller: Cooper chuckled during confession Investigator: Cooper 'chuckled' in confession

Retired detective Randy Miller, the lead investigator in the Jernigan homicide, told jurors that Cooper answered questions about the June 2006 crime in a straight-forward, calm manner and at times chuckled as he related how he killed Jernigan, 41, while he worked at the Circus Family Restaurant on Wake Forest Road.

Cooper told police he thought Jernigan was the restaurant manager and would have access to the safe. Jernigan was a contractor who had been cleaning the restaurant. Prosecutors said Cooper shot him once in the head, stole his truck and fled the scene.

Wake County Sheriff's Office Detective Cameron Lillyquist recounted multiple interviews with Cooper in which he described robbing the In & Out Food Mart, at 3000 Creech Road. Haj-Hussein, 43, the store's owner, was killed there on May 12, 2006.

Cooper told Lillyquist about attempts to cover up that crime, including disposing of his clothes and setting fire to a van he allegedly stole from the scene, the detective testified.

A maintenance supervisor and a member of the Raleigh Fire Department also took the stand Tuesday afternoon to testify about the final moments of a third victim, Barnwell, who was shot outside his Windsor Falls apartment on April 27, 2007.

Raleigh fire Capt. Keith Wilder said when he arrived, Barnwell was lying on the ground, gasping for breath. As he did CPR, Wilder said, Barnwell's breathing ceased.

Cooper’s defense attorneys have argued that his confessions were coerced and should not have been admitted in court. They don't deny he shot his victims.

The issue in the trial, they have said, is whether he acted with premeditation and deliberation. They have said he suffers from a diminished capacity from years of physical abuse at his father's hands, which affects his ability to think clearly, particularly in moments of stress.

Miller also testified Tuesday said Cooper never expressed having a lack of memory or loss of consciousness, awareness. He never lost control.

"Actually, to the contrary," Miller said.

"Did he ever express any remorse for the murder of LeRoy Jernigan or Haj-Hussein?" Wake County Assistant District Attorney Adam Moyers asked.

"No," Miller said. "No."

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