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Cooper's sister: Childhood was like 'living with the devil'

Posted March 29, 2010
Updated March 30, 2010

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— Samuel James Cooper and his four siblings grew up in what one described Monday as "hell," as their father regularly beat and assaulted them and their mother was helpless to stop it.

At times, the violence got so bad that one of his sisters contemplated suicide; and Cooper and his two sisters even discussed a plan to kill their father, Samuel James Cooper Sr.

Jacqueline Cooper Suspect suffered years of physical abuse, mom says

"It was like living with the devil," Charlene McCoy, testified Monday. "Coming home, you never knew one day or the next if he was going to be mad."

The elder Cooper would use a baseball bat, broomstick and his "weapon of choice," a leather belt, to beat them, McCoy testified.

Samuel Cooper Jr., or "Little Sammy," as his mother calls him, often got the worst of the beatings.

"All of us got assaulted, but Little Sammy and I were the ones who got the most beatings in the house," his mother Jacqueline Cooper testified.

It's that abuse, defense attorneys say, that is at issue in their client's capital murder trial.

They don't deny that Samuel Cooper Jr., 33, shot and killed Ossama Haj-Hussein, 43; LeRoy Jernigan, 41; Timothy Barnwell, 34; Ricky High, 48; and Tariq Hussain, 52 over a 17-month period in 2006 and 2007.

The trial – in its ninth day Monday – centers on Samuel Cooper's mental condition and whether he acted with premeditation and deliberation while carrying out the crimes.

The beatings, the defense argued during opening statements earlier this month, left him with diminished emotions and post-traumatic stress disorder that, in part, causes him to react without thought or consideration.

Samuel Cooper has shown little emotion during his trial, often sitting with his head bowed, but he did appear tearful Monday morning as his mother testified to the abuse the family suffered.

The first time Samuel Cooper Sr. hit his oldest son, Jacqueline Cooper said, was as a crying baby, about 3 or 4 months old.

"He took Little Sammy out of my hands, and he just took him and shook him real, real hard and threw him on the couch," she said. "Then he went over and popped him on the leg. I was upset. So he got mad, and he punched me in my face.”

From there, the abuse got worse, she continued. As he grew older, Samuel Cooper was beaten several times a week.

"I guess in his mind, he had a reason but it wasn't a reason for us," Samuel Cooper's sister, Diane Cooper, testified. "We could have done something real small and could have gotten a beating for it."

When he was 12 or 13, she said, his father tried to beat him in the head with a baseball bat so severely that he told Jacqueline Cooper to call an ambulance. Had Samuel Cooper not been able to get away from his father, family members testified, they had no doubt he would have died.

"Would your father have killed Sam?" defense attorney Stephen Freedman questioned McCoy.

"I believe it to this day that he would've," she said.

Diane Cooper testified that her brother changed over the years as the beatings continued. As he got older, she said, he isolated himself more, and he stopped crying when his father hit him.

That made their father angrier, McCoy said.

"Sam stopped crying, and that's when the beatings got worse," she said. "The belt wasn't making him cry, so that's when (the beatings) intensified. That's when you have the body blows, the broom sticks, the boys having to pull down their pants."

"He wouldn't respond. He would just sit. He looked like he was just spaced out," Jacqueline Cooper also testified.

Prosecutors, who rested their case Monday morning, have said that all but one of the shootings Samuel Cooper is charged in were committed during robberies.

In presenting their evidence, they painted Samuel Cooper as a calculated robber who never expressed remorse for the killings and knew exactly what he was doing at the time of the crimes.

During the second day of testimony, jurors heard an audio confession in which Samuel Cooper described to police detectives how he tried to shoot his victims above the neck to "avoid messes."

"'Cause you shoot from the neck down, anything could happen," he says in the recording. "I mean, that person could identify you or anything."

"So you're telling me, basically, you shot in the head to make sure they were dead?" a police detective asks.

"To make sure they didn't talk," Samuel Cooper says.

Several investigators also testified about his demeanor during those interviews, in which they described as being relaxed, polite, engaging and cooperative. At times, they testified, he chuckled.


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  • Chaniya Apr 2, 2010

    I think it's a sad shame the way we treat our mentally ill in society, we have no compassion--don't even believe it's real. And then to totally disregard and marginalize abuse is a very sad state as well. Samuel Cooper should indeed pay for his criminal activity -- for taking precious life, and for making those families suffer. This will continue to happen, over and over again until mental illness and abusive situations are addressed and seriously dealt with.

  • christiespencer Mar 31, 2010

    Unless you havelived the life of being abused you have no idea what it can do to you mentally, emotionally, and in every other way possible it will destroy you. I lived it myself. My father would beat like I was a man til I would pee on myself. I contemplated suicide many times, and how great my life would be if my parents were dead. As I got older, I also stopped crying and I became very angry and full of rage and acted it out in every area of my life. About 4 years ago I got help and have been getting help ever since. I have slowly but surely became a different person on the inside. the person I could have been all those years. So I pray this man gets help in or out of prison.

  • airbornemonty Mar 30, 2010

    If you all believe all of this crying phoney baloney ballyhoo, stop! Don't do anything else and go straight to a therapist and get the help you need.

  • treki70 Mar 30, 2010

    He admits it=guilty

    He "Shot at neck and head area to avoid mess"for some one with diminished capasity sounds like he was thinking were to shoot these people=Guilty

    What about dad?get him and put him in jail for the weapon possetion by felon charge

    No more deals!! To get others "out of jail free"
    (Sighs-what a world)

  • wildcat Mar 30, 2010

    I hope this poor man get the help he needs. Abuse is no joke!!!

    Well, it is too late for that. He will never get that kind of help in prison.

  • sweet4you Mar 30, 2010

    I hope this poor man get the help he needs. Abuse is no joke!!!

  • wildcat Mar 30, 2010

    Maybe the adult children are stretching the truth about their father in order to save their brother. In that case, they should have done something by reporting the father a lone time ago. Its too late now.

  • wildcat Mar 30, 2010

    His family and friends can write and visit him in prison.

  • wildcat Mar 30, 2010

    Obviously the father could not have been as bad as these adult children claimed. If he was, why was this father not reported. Surely other family members and neighbors knew what kind of father this man was. Then again, maybe the children deserved to be punished because they were disobedient.

  • wildcat Mar 30, 2010

    This is just a cop-out of an excuse. What criminal won't say to save their neck from going to prison for life. This man knew right from wrong and yet did crime of murder any way. Now he wants out. He should have used his brains in making the right choice. But no he chose the wrong choice and now is facing his consequence.