Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Death of Sam Cooke

**Update: Interview with Erik Greene IV

CL: So you believe Boyer and Franklin were acting on behalf of someone else? That would seem a strange way to commit a planned murder.

Greene: You're right. As reported, it would've been a strange way to plan a murder, but apparently things went awry from the original script. First of all, Boyer was a prop. She was used to get Sam from Martoni's restaurant to PJ's night club. Bertha Franklin's inclusion was accidental; the murder scene was supposed to be the motel room. My source insists Sam was brought to a room in the Hacienda for an arranged "meeting." The meeting in the motel room was meant to encourage Sam to take his career in another direction, but after Sam refused he was subdued with a blunt object, shot, and left for dead. My source says what happened next was never part of the plan: Sam stumbled out of the room and made his way to the motel manager's office. Behind the office window was a one-bedroom apartment in which Franklin lived. The killer, realizing the job wasn't done, dragged Sam inside and shot him again — the second time in Franklin's apartment. This alternate scenario makes sense, since evidence showed the gun had been fired three times, yet only the fatal bullet and a ricochet were found inside Franklin's apartment. The first shot occurred in the motel room itself. The way it was explained to me, Franklin and Boyer were both compensated for their involvement, but neither one pulled the trigger. Tables were overturned and the room disheveled to give the impression of a struggle. "The whole thing was like a movie," is how my source describes the staged cover-up.

CL: Do you feel the popular portrayal of Sam Cooke's death denigrates his musical and personal legacy?

Greene: I definitely feel the negative details surrounding Sam's death helped suppress his legacy. Also because the family does not control the Sam Cooke music catalog (how this came to pass and why are also discussed in my book), his music isn't as widely distributed as it should be. And while many entertainers before and after Sam had active sex lives, Sam's exploits have been overdramatized because of how he reportedly died.

As far as his legacy is concerned, it was once said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant," and I believe the time has come for my uncle to enjoy his day in the sun. Despite the actions of others, the timeless classics and warm memories Sam Cooke left behind have created a global following that ensures his time on earth is never forgotten.

CL: The lingering questions about Sam Cooke's death must be a load to bear for his loved ones.

Greene: The Cook family always believed that Sam did not die as reported. However, it was hard to convince persons outside the family how many inconsistencies with Sam's nature the "official" version contained. At one point, Sam's father called a family forum to say "Let it go. People are going to believe what they're going to believe, so it's futile to try to convince them otherwise." Now, 43 years after his death, I tried to gain greater insight to the mystery of Sam's death in Our Uncle Sam. I've analyzed available medical reports and legal documents, and I've sifted through the inconsistencies to try to piece together what happened in Sam's final hours. The length of time that's passed since his death may seem extreme to some, but I truly believe that all things come together in time. Now is that time.

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