Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Spade Cooley

Spade Loses It

After a sleepless night, Ella Mae Cooley was in bed until 3 p.m. the next day, April 3, 1961. Spade had an afternoon meeting about the theme park. Participants said he was drunk and angry. He lashed out at subordinates, then stormed out in a huff.

Melody Cooley in court
Melody Cooley in court

He drove home to continue the sexual interrogation of his wife.

After more arguing, she told him she was leaving him, once and for all.

And Cooley lost it.

Their daughter, Melody, 14, arrived home at about 6:20 p.m. Cooley tried to orchestrate yet another creepy infidelity confession. The girl would later describe the scene in court:

"When I entered, he was on the phone. He was talking to his business partner and he said, 'Don't call the police.' He was real sweaty and he had blood spots on his pants. He put down the phone and said, 'Come in here. I want you to see your mother. She's going to tell you something.' He took hold of my arm and took me into the den. The shower was running in the bathroom. Mother was in the shower. He opened the door and said, 'Get up. Melody's here. Talk to her.' He grabbed her by the hair and dragged her into the den with both hands. She was undressed. He banged her head on the floor twice. He called her a slut. She couldn't move. She seemed unconscious. He turned back to mother and said, 'We'll see if you're dead.' Then he stomped her in the stomach with his left foot. He took a cigarette which he had been smoking and burned her twice."

Melody said her father picked a pistol and menaced her with it, leveling its sights between her eyes. He told her, "You're going to watch me kill her, Melody. If you don't, I'll kill you, too. I'll kill us all."

He stared with glazed eyes and warned her not to say anything to the police.

The phone rang, and when Cooley went to answer it, the terrified teenager ran for her life.

At 8 p.m., manager Bobbie Bennett showed up. She could see that Ella Mae was likely dead, but Cooley refused to allow her to call an ambulance. Instead, he called Dorothy Davis, the nurse and family friend, and his married son and daughter-in-law, John and Dorothy Cooley.

They all arrived at about 11 p.m., five hours after the beating, and immediately demanded that Cooley call for help. Spade Cooley made the call himself. But it was too late for Ella Mae.

Ambulance attendant Richard Stickel would later say that as he was loading the battered woman onto a stretcher, Cooley blubbered, "I love you. Please don't be dead." Stickel described Cooley as "dazed and incoherent."

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'