Local News

New Details Emerge in Case Against Samuel James Cooper

Posted November 28, 2007 12:26 p.m. EST
Updated November 29, 2007 12:17 p.m. EST

— Samuel James Cooper's alleged crime spree appeared to have accelerated in the seven weeks leading up to his arrest last Wednesday, according to court documents and new information obtained by WRAL News.

The 30-year-old convicted felon was arrested a week ago at a Domino's Pizza distribution center in Garner after he allegedly robbed a nearby Bank of America.

That arrest started a chain of events that investigators say links Cooper to deaths in five unsolved murders dating to May 2006 and a string of other violent crimes, including armed robbery and home invasion. ()

Wednesday, a day after he was charged with murder, Rockingham County authorities charged Cooper with two counts of attempted first-degree murder in connection with a Nov. 4 home invasion in Reidsville. Investigators say he shot two people in the head.

"Both are considered very lucky to be alive," Capt. Perry Brookshire with the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office said. "I think he has actually said that he thought he had killed both of them. And he's made a comment that he normally does kill the individuals."

Cooper is also a person of interest in another Rockingham County home invasion from early October, when two more people were shot.

Additionally, sources tell WRAL that investigators are linking him to more than a dozen armed robberies in the Raleigh area.

On Tuesday evening, Raleigh police charged a woman somehow connected with Cooper in two robberies last month.

Regina Nicole Swan, 20, of 2817 Wade Avenue, is charged with two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon and is accused of stealing $3,385 from a Raleigh Food Lion and $955 from a Bojangles', according to arrest warrants.

Cooper had not been charged in those robberies as of Wednesday evening, but a notation on a court document reads: "These robberies at issue were done with Samuel Cooper."

Swan was in the Wake County Jail under a $250,000 bond Wednesday. Cooper was in the Wake County Jail without bond for the murder charges and was under a $1 million bond for the Rockingham County case.

It is unclear how Swan and Cooper are connected, but sources tell WRAL that Swan might be a former or current girlfriend of Cooper. They also say she dances at a strip club on Capital Boulevard called Foxy Lady – a place Cooper apparently frequented.

The club's owner would not talk with WRAL Wednesday about the case or confirm whether Swan works there, but he did meet there with Raleigh police detectives. When asked by WRAL if they were there to talk about the case, investigators directed questions to the police department.

Neither Raleigh police nor the Wake County Sheriff's Office has talked about the case since they announced the charges against Cooper on Tuesday, and they said they don't expect to do so because of the "complexity" and ongoing investigation of each homicide.

Nor have they explained how they linked Cooper to the cases or what led them to charge him in the slayings of Ossama "Sam" Haj-Hussein, 43, LeRoy Jernigan, 41, Timothy David Barnwell, 34, Ricky High, 48, and Tariq Hussain, 52.

WRAL has learned from unnamed sources, however, that Cooper confessed to the crimes while in custody and that forensic tests on a gun seized by police tie him to all five cases. The arrest of Cooper's father on a felony weapons charge was a factor in Cooper's confession, sources say.

Prosecutors later dropped the charge against the elder Cooper.

"There are a lot of tools in the crime-fighting arsenal," local attorney and former prosecutor Karl Knudsen said.

State Bureau of Investigation agents would not talk about the Cooper case, but said spent bullets and shell casings can hold clues that can be as powerful as fingerprints at a crime scene.

"(Detectives) don't have any witnesses, or they have witnesses who are giving conflicting accounts of what took place – so, when a weapon's recovered, it may be the only thing to tie an individual back to that scene," said SBI special agent Peter Ware, who oversees the SBI's firearms unit. (Watch more about how the SBI helps solve crimes.)

Ware said the firing pin markings on a shell casing and the microscopic grooves formed when a bullet travels through a gun barrel can tell agents what kind of weapon was fired.

As for Cooper's apparent confession, once the court appoints a public defender in a case, police are barred from pressing a suspect for more information, Knudsen said. It doesn't stop the accused from talking, however.

"As long as it's clear that that person has initiated the contact with the law enforcement, there's not a problem," he said.