Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder in Miami: Stan and Joyce Cohen

The Trial

Joyce Cohen was finally arrested and charged with her husband's murder two months later, on Nov. 2, 1988, two and a half years after the murder.

By then her lifestyle had undergone a transformation.

She was living at a trailer park in Chesapeake, Va., with her new boyfriend, Robert Dietrich, whom she met in Steamboat months after the murder.

Her trial in the fall of 1989 began with testimony from the first cop on the murder scene, Officer Catherine Carter. She testified that a dazed and spacey Joyce Cohen sat on the floor of her living room and said, "I shouldn't have done it."

Another early witness described a foreboding conversation he had with Joyce more than a year before Stanley was murdered.

Joyce, in court, listens to testimony
Joyce, in court, listens to testimony

Frank Wheatley, a former supervisor with Cohen's construction company, said he snorted cocaine with Joyce and had frank discussions with her about the state of their marriage.

"She mentioned to me that Stan was becoming rather boring to her," Wheatley said. "She told me that she would like to get divorced but that she was afraid no judge would give her anything...(she said) she wished she knew somebody she could have kill him or have the nerve to do it herself."

Joyce Cohen was complaining to just about everyone she knew about her marriage.

She became friends with Tanya Tucker, the country singer, after they met at a bar in Steamboat.

Tanya Tucker
Tanya Tucker

Tucker stayed the night at the Cohen residence. The women used cocaine, and Joyce once again opened up about Stanley.

Detective Spear interviewed Tucker, and a 46-page transcript of the conversation became part of the case record.

"She seemed kind of a pain-wracked person," Tucker told Spear. "Bottom line, she was extremely unhappy....She liked the money. That's the only thing she liked."

Another Steamboat friend, Kathy Moser, said Joyce Cohen was "extremely unhappy and agitated" that Stanley was fooling around with an old girlfriend, Carol Hughes, and the paramour mounted the stand to acknowledge that she and Cohen were intimate.

Defense Attorney Ross gamely tried to discredit one prosecution witness after another, but he was swimming upstream against a torrent of damning testimony, including the apparent delay in reporting the shooting and the gunpowder residue on found on a tissue.

Prosecutors said the killers apparently carelessly dropped the murder weapon while fleeing. They said Cohen picked it with a tissue and threw it in the ferns in yard before police arrived. She blew her nose in the same tissue.

Dominic Dunne's Power, Priviledge and Justice

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