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Anthony and Nathaniel COOK





Classification: Serial killers
Characteristics: Rape - Both brothers were long-haul truck drivers - Racially motivated
Number of victims: 9
Date of murder: 1973 - 1981
Date of arrest: October 1981
Date of birth: Anthony: 1949 - Nathaniel: 1958
Victim profile: Vickie Lynn Small, 22 / Thomas Gordon, 24 / Connie Sue Thompson, 19 / Dawn Rene Backes, 12 / Scott Moulton, 21, and Denise Siotkowski, 22 / Daryl Cole, 21, and Stacey Balonek, 21 / Peter Sawicki
Method of murder: Shooting - Beating with a baseball bat/a concrete block
Location: Ohio, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison

True story of killings written by detective

Cooks held Toledo in fear in early '80s

By Mark Reiter -

April 7, 2008

For 17 months, Anthony and Nathaniel Cook covered their tracks and evaded Toledo police as they performed the crimes that would make them the city’s most notorious serial killers.

The gruesome murders that began in May, 1980, locked the city in fear as brutally beaten bodies were found in culverts and ditches and young couples turned up dead in the trunks of cars.

The rampage ended in October, 1981, when Anthony Cook was arrested in the shooting death of Realtor Peter Sawicki. However, 17 years would elapse before DNA linked the brothers to the other crimes.

Evil Brothers: A True Crime Story, written by Frank Stiles, a retired Toledo Police detective who was the lead investigator during the killings, details the police investigation that ended in 2000 when confessions made by the Cooks cleared up eight cold-case murders and other unsolved crimes.

“It was a scary time to be in Toledo,” recalled Mr. Stiles, who is chief investigator for the Lucas County prosecutor’s office. “I knew the streets would not be safe until we got these killers locked up.”

It was eight years ago this week that Anthony and Nathaniel Cook were convicted in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for their roles in the murder of Thomas Gordon, 24, and the attempted murder and kidnapping of his 18-year-old girlfriend.

The couple were abducted May 14, 1980, in North Toledo and taken to western Lucas County, where Mr. Gordon was shot in the stomach. His girlfriend was raped and stabbed, but survived.

Anthony Cook, now 59, who was already serving a life sentence for the murder of Mr. Sawicki, was given an additional 20-years-to-life punishment. His brother, 49, was given a 20-year sentence and will be released from prison in 10 years, with credit for time he already had served.

As a detective, Mr. Stiles investigated the Gordon murder and the next six killings: Connie Sue Thompson, 19, who was killed by the Cooks after they picked her up hitchhiking on Cherry Street; Dawn Rene Backes, a 12-year-old Gesu Elementary School student who was raped and bludgeoned in the basement of a central-city theater; Scott Moulton, 21, and Denise Siotkowski, 22, who were shot and killed in a car at an Oregon apartment; and Daryle Cole, 31, and his girlfriend, Stacey Balonek, 21, who were beaten to death and found in the truck of Mr. Cole’s car in North Toledo.

It was during the investigation of the Sawicki murder that Mr. Stiles connected Anthony Cook to the crime through an informant and eventually developed him and his brother as prime suspects in the killings.

Anthony Cook also confessed to the 1973 murder of Vickie Lynn Small, 22, a crime he committed when he was 24 and before he went to prison for six years for an armed robbery conviction. Her body was dumped in Ottawa Park after she and some friends had car trouble and Cook ended up giving Ms. Small a ride.

After Cook was convicted of killing Mr. Sawicki in the attack of the Ottawa Hills man’s daughter and her boyfriend, Mr. Stiles and other investigators continued to work on the case.

He retired from the police department in 1990, but the memories of the heinous crimes never left him. “I would never give up on this case,” he said. “I still have nightmares about the murders. No case had ever bothered me like this one.”

DNA testing was emerging as a new scientific crime tool in 1997 when Prosecutor Julia Bates suggested that it be used to link the Cooks to some unsolved crimes. A search warrant was obtained for the brothers’ blood, and tests indicated they raped Mr. Gordon’s girlfriend.

Despite being obtained 17 years earlier, the DNA evidence was instrumental in getting indictments against the Cooks and bringing long-sought resolution to the cases, Mr. Stiles said.

Mr. Stiles was working as director of security at a local department store chain when Mrs. Bates called him in 1997 with the idea of using DNA.

The retired detective identified the crimes he believed the Cooks committed so that evidence could be tested for DNA.

Mr. Stiles went to work for Mrs. Bates in 1999 as the first investigator in the office.

“Frank is a great guy to have working in the office because of his institutional history. He not only has skills as an investigator, but he has knowledge about old cases,” Mrs. Bates said.

Mr. Stiles said he put his spare time to good use about three years ago to work on the book, and researched the case by combing through police records, court transcripts, newspaper clippings, and other documents.

He said he met face to face with family members of the victims and victims who survived attacks to get their approval for the project and gather more information about the victims themselves.

“Among the things that I wanted to accomplish was to write a little about what these kids did while they were alive,” he said. “In some cases there was not a lot I could tell about them because they hadn’t lived long.”

Sharon Backes Wright’s daughter, Dawn, was the youngest victim. She would have turned 40 this year. Mrs. Wright said she started reading the book, but put it down when she got to the chapter on her daughter.

“The book is difficult to read. [The Cook brothers] were the cruelest to her, and I am not saying that because I am her mother. She was an innocent 12-year-old girl,” she said.


Anthony and Nathaniel Cook

Anthony Cook, at times aided by his brother Nathaniel, embarked on a murder spree in the Toledo, Ohio, area that killed nine people from 1973 until his 1981 arrest for murder. If not for DNA evidence that had been preserved for twenty years, however, the scope of his and Nathaniel's crimes would likely never been known.

The best place to begin the tale is with the last slaying. On September 18, 1981, Anthony Cook assaulted Todd Sabo and Leslie Sawicki completely out of the blue while the pair sat in a van in an apartment complex parking lot. While Sabo fought with Anthony Cook, Sawicki escaped and telephoned police and also her father, Peter Sawicki. Unfortunately, Peter Sawicki arrived on the scene first and was shot dead by Anthony Cook. Sabo was shot in the neck and shoulder but survived.

Anthony Cook was arrested for the attack and sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison. He had been locked up ever since, just another one of the many murderers in our nation's prison system. Having long suspected he and Nathaniel may be responsible for other homicides, authorities in 1997 decided to compare the brothers' DNA to some of past crimes. They soon found a match with the murder of Tom Gordon, 24, and the rape and attempted murder of Gordon's girlfriend on May 14, 1980. The Cook brothers confronted the couple while they were sitting in a car and forced them into the backseat, driving them to a secluded area and shooting Gordon dead. The girl was raped by both brothers and stabbed repeatedly with an ice pick. She was left for dead but did survive the horrible ordeal.

Arrested for the murder of Gordon and the crimes against the unnamed girlfriend and under close scrutiny in many other slayings and attacks, the murderous siblings decided to cut a deal. Anthony Cook agreed to another term of fifteen years to life for the murder of Gordon while Nathaniel received twenty to seventy-five years in prison for the attempted murder of the girlfiend and the brothers confessed to a startling string of killings and attempted murders over an eight year period spanning for 1973 through 1981.

The spree began with Anthony Cook working as a solo act. On December 20, 1973, 22-year-old Vicki Small and some friends had car trouble and Anthony Cook, posing as a helpful citizen, gave Small a lift. She was found raped and shot to death later in the day.

Soon after Small's killing, Anthony Cook went to prison until 1979 on an unrelated robbery conviction but after his release resumed his killing with a vengeance. Now teamed with brother Nathaniel, he picked up hitchhiker Connie Thompson, 19 on January 17, 1981. Both brothers raped Thompson until they tired of her, killed her, and dumped her violated body in a culvert. Just ten days later they struck again, forcing a young couple into a vacant garage where they were both shot but survived. Then on February 21 they abducted Dawn Backes, 12, on her way home from school and took her to an abandoned building where she was tortured, raped, and then bludgeoned to death with a concrete block.

After the Backes slaying Anthony Cook went solo once again. On March 27, 1981, he shot dead Scott Moulton, 21, and Denise Siotkowski, 22. On August 2 he abducted Daryl Cole, 21, and Stacey Balonek, 21. They were later found in the trunk of Cole's car, beaten to death with a baseball bat. Siotkowski and Balonek had both been sexually assaulted. The next month Anthony Cook was arrested for Peter Sawicki's murder and the killings were finally over.


FBI to check killers' history

By John Seewer - The Associated Press

Saturday, April 08, 2000

TOLEDO, Ohio — Federal authorities want to know if two brothers who admitted to a Toledo killing spree had any involvement with unsolved slayings outside Ohio.

FBI agents will meet Lucas County officials Monday to look at information from the investigation into Anthony and Nathaniel Cook.

The brothers this week acknowledged taking part in the slayings of nine people during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Anthony Cook, 51, said he was involved in all nine slayings, meaning he either killed the victims or encouraged his brother to do so. Nathaniel Cook, 42, admitted he had a role in three killings.

Both brothers were long-haul truck drivers and spent time in several states, said Frank Stiles, an investigator with the Lucas County Prosecu tor's Office.

Anthony Cook spent time driving through Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Texas before he was sent to prison in 1981, Mr. Stiles said.

Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates said she also suspects there were more victims outside of Toledo.

The brothers were to stand trial Thursday in the killing of a man 20 years ago, but as part of a plea agreement, they admitted to playing roles in the nine killings.

Anthony Cook pleaded guilty Thursday to aggravated murder in the 1980 shooting of Thomas Gordon. Mr. Cook was sentenced to life in prison for that killing and already is serving a life sentence without the chance of parole in a 1981 slaying.

Nathaniel Cook pleaded guilty to two counts of kidnapping and one count of attempted murder of Mr. Gordon's girlfriend. He will be eligible for parole after 18 years.

During yesterday's hearing, the Cooks gave short statements about their brutal attack on Mr. Gordon and his girlfriend, who had just kissed goodnight in front of her Utica Street home after returning from a date on May 14, 1980.

The passenger-side window of Mr. Gordon's 1973 Nova was shattered by one of the brothers and the young couple was forced into the backseat at gunpoint. They were driven to a field off Raab Road in western Lucas County, where the Cook brothers shot Mr. Gordon and took turns raping his girlfriend.

Afterward, she was stabbed repeatedly with an ice-pick until she feigned death. Mr. Gordon was placed in the trunk and his girlfriend was left in the backseat of the car, which was abandoned off McLean Street in North Toledo. The girl was able to make it to a nearby house for help and survived the ordeal.


The Gordon murder was thought by police to be the first of the killings. But this week, Anthony Cook told police about a young woman he killed in 1973, which marks the oldest case the plea agreement was able to resolve.

On Dec. 20, 1973, Vicky Lynn Small, 22, and some friends had car trouble during a bad snowstorm. Anthony Cook, then 24, stopped to help and ended up giving Ms. Small a ride. Police said she was sexually assaulted and fatally shot. Her body was found the same day in Ottawa Park.

It appears there was a lull in the homicides committed by one or both of the Cook brothers from 1973 until Mr. Gordon's death in 1980. Police said that's likely because Anthony Cook was in prison on an armed robbery conviction from 1974 to 1979. When he got out, his brother, Nathaniel, joined him in three of the killings.


The Cooks' next victim after Mr. Gordon and his girlfriend was Connie Sue Thompson, 19, who was hitchhiking on Cherry Street near St. Vincent Medical Center on Jan. 17, 1981, when she was picked up by the brothers. They drove her to western Lucas County, where she was sexually assaulted and murdered. Her body was discovered in a culvert under a road, police said.

A young couple was targeted by the brothers just 10 days later. They have the distinction of surviving their attack. Arnold Coates, then 21, and Cheryl Bartlett, then 18, were walking in an alley behind Segur Avenue when the Cooks forced them into a vacant garage at gunpoint. Because they had just one bullet, they made the couple embrace and shot them, but not fatally.

Dawn Rene Backes wouldn't be so lucky. On Feb. 21, 1981, Anthony Cook was driving home from work when he saw the 12-year-old Gesu School pupil walking near the University of Toledo.

He grabbed her by the neck and forced her into his truck. He stopped at an apartment to pick up Nathaniel, and the two took Dawn to the former State Theater, 2460 Collingwood Blvd., and tortured and raped her in the abandoned building. Afterward, they smashed her skull with a concrete block.

Hardened detectives were as horrified as the citizenry by the girl's brutal killing.

A little over a month later, on March 27, 1981, Anthony Cook noticed a couple in a car in the parking lot of the Fountain Circle Apartments in Oregon. Scott Moulton, 21, and Denise Siotkowski, 22, were friends who worked together at the Centre Supermarket on Navarre Avenue.

They planned to meet co-workers for drinks that night but never showed up. They were found in the car's trunk at the apartment complex in Oregon. Mr. Moulton had been shot four times and Ms. Siotkowski five. Police said Ms. Siotkowski had been sexually assaulted.

Stacey Balonek, 21, and Daryle Cole, 21, had dated for about a year when Anthony Cook murdered them on Aug. 2, 1981, shortly after they had returned from a trip to Daytona Beach, Fla.

Anthony Cook told police he saw them parked near Ms. Balonek's home on Doyle Street when he forced them at gunpoint into the trunk of Mr. Cole's 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix and drove to the railroad tracks beneath the Central Avenue overpass. Ms. Balonek was sexually assaulted and both were beaten to death with Mr. Cole's aluminum baseball bat.

The next murder is the one that put Anthony Cook in prison for life.

On Sept. 18, 1981, Anthony Cook attacked Todd Sabo and Leslie Sawicki, who had been drinking in the back of a van parked at an apartment complex in the 4100 block of North Terrace View Drive near Richards Road.

Ms. Sawicki managed to escape while Mr. Sabo fought with Anthony Cook. She found a phone and called her father and then she called the police. The Ottawa Hills police station was 0.2 of a mile from the scene, but they didn't send officers because it was out of their jurisdiction. They referred the call to Toledo police, but Peter Sawicki arrived at the apartment complex first.

Anthony Cook fatally shot Mr. Sawicki in the throat. Mr. Sabo was shot in the neck and shoulder, but survived.

The arrest of Anthony Cook for the murder halted the killing spree.

Tom Ross, an investigator for the prosecutor's office and a retired Toledo police detective who worked on some of the murder investigations when they occurred, said the crimes may have a racial element.

Mr. Ross said all the victims were white, which prompted investigators to wonder about racial motivations.

"[Anthony Cook] didn't look for black victims, and I'm sure there had to be plenty of opportunities to grab black victims out there," Mr. Ross said. "That's a heavy accusation without him coming out and saying that, but he's out selecting his victims. Why are all the victims he selected white? I think you have to ask that."

Sergeant Forrester and Frank Stiles, an investigator for the prosecutor's office and a retired Toledo police detective sergeant who has worked on the cases for years, said they believe race was a factor in the crimes.


Anthony & Nathaniel Cook (killed: 9)

2 admit 9 Toledo slayings in '80s

By John Seewer - The Associated Press

Friday, April 07, 2000

TOLEDO — Two brothers admitted Thursday to being involved in a killing spree more than 20 years ago that left nine people dead and terrorized Toledo during the early 1980s.

The brothers primarily preyed on young couples in parked cars, raping the women before killing them.

Anthony Cook, 51, acknowledged in Lucas County Common Pleas Court he was involved in all nine slayings, meaning he either killed the victims or encouraged his brother to do so. Nathaniel Cook, 42, admitted taking part in three killings.

“They created an atmosphere of fear and terror in our community,” said Judge Charles Wittenberg.

The brothers were to stand trial Thursday in the murder of a man 20 years ago, but as part of a plea agreement they admitted to roles in the nine killings.

Anthony Cook pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in the 1980 shooting of Thomas Gordon. He was sentenced to life in prison for that killing and already is serving a life sentence without the chance of parole in a 1981 slaying.

Nathaniel Cook pleaded guilty to two counts of kidnapping and one count of attempted murder of Mr. Gordon's girlfriend. He will be eligible for parole after 18 years.

The Cooks avoided standing trial in Mr. Gordon's death, and Nathaniel Cook avoided a possible life sentence. They will not face punishment in the other cases.

Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates said she accepted the plea deal because it gives the nine victims' families some peace of mind.

Investigators long had suspected the Cook brothers were involved in the killings, but lacked evidence.

The break came in 1998 when Ms. Bates used blood samples and DNA evidence to link Mr. Gordon's girlfriend, Sandra Podgorski, and the Cook brothers. A match was made, putting the Cooks at the scene of Mr. Gordon's death. Charges were filed against them.

Retired police Detective Tom Ross said he believed the murders were racially motivated, adding that several of the victims were stalked. All of the victims were white, and the Cook brothers are black.



Nathaniel Cook, left, and his brother Anthony Cook appear
in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in 2000.



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