Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carroll Edward Cole

Death Trip

On March 8, 1978 Cole received a six-month jail sentence plus three years' probation contingent on full-time employment and participation in an alcoholic rehab program. North Las Vegas dismissed his bail-jumping charges on Cole's fortieth birthday, and Cole was freed on June 16, 1978.

Soon after his release, Cole reunited with Diana. "We got along fine," he later wrote, "but I was sleeping on the couch for several days until she finally invited me into the bedroom." Probation notwithstanding, Cole kept drinking and skated from one part-time job to another. He was jailed for drunkenness on October 25, slapped with another probation violation, then released on $2,000 bond. Police arrested him again on November 8, but neglected to inform his probation officer. A federal hearing in March 1979 continued his probation, while Cole continued his drinking and trolling for victims.

On August 27, 1979 Cole met Bonnie Sue O'Neil in a local bar and took her back to the appliance shop where he was temporarily employed. Years later, Cole recalled their tryst as "a night to end all screwing," but it ended when O'Neil mentioned a need to phone her husband. Cole strangled her on the spot and dumped her body out back, throwing her clothes into a nearby garbage bin. Speaking in 1985, Cole and his former employers agreed that police on the case never came to the shop or questioned any of the staff.

Cole's marriage was on its last legs by that time. On September 17, 1979 he strangled Diana at home, wrapped her body in blankets, and stowed it in a closet. A neighbor called police eight days later, to report Cole scrabbling around beneath his house. Patrolmen found him in the crawlspace, working on a grave-sized excavation, and they drove him to the local detox center. By the time he was released next morning, Cole's mother-in-law had found Diana's corpse and the house was crawling with police, but he eluded them and caught a bus to Las Vegas.

In fact, he had nothing to fear from San Diego authorities. Autopsy results pegged Diana's blood-alcohol level at four times the legal limit, and her death was attributed to alcohol poisoning. The only person looking for Cole, so far, was his federal probation officer. A bench warrant for his arrest was issued on September 27, 1979.

Cole heads back to Las Vegas, Nevada
Cole heads back to Las Vegas,
Nevada

In Las Vegas, Cole found work as a truck driver for a religious charity, picking up donations of clothing and other second-hand items. Newly single, he began dating a female coworker, and while the relationship led to his third marriage, it never prevented Cole from picking up women in bars. One of them was Marie Cushman, who accompanied Cole to the Casbah Hotel on November 3, 1979. He killed her there and left her body in the room, to be discovered by a maid next morning. Curiously, an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal described two suspects in Cushman's murder: one was "an unidentified 50-year-old man," five-feet-two, with gray hair; the other, described by a Casbah desk clerk, was "an Indian in his thirties, about six feet tall, with short, wavy black hair," driving a Chevrolet with California license plates. Neither bore any resemblance to Cole, and the false leads left police stymied.

Married in Las Vegas on December 16, 1979, Cole took his bride to Texas for a long-term honeymoon. He was stopped for driving without a valid license in early January 1980, and might have escaped with a warning, but a computer name-check turned up the federal bench warrant. Held as a persistent violator of probation, he wound up in Springfield, Missouri, at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. In August 1980 Dr. A.E. Miller filed the following report:

There is no evidence of psychosis or neurosis in Mr. Cole. Diagnostically he may be described as a character disorder. It is unlikely that major personality changes will occur. He does not appear motivated for any sort of treatment at this time.

US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Missouri
US Medical Center for Federal
Prisoners in Missouri

Despite that judgment, Cole was released on October 4, 1980 and bussed off to Dallas, where he would murder three more women by November 30.

 

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