Homicides in Dexter not chance, police say

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 08, 1999, at 12:52 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — A Maine State Police detective investigating the double homicide in Dexter said Tuesday that the killings aren’t considered random.

“At this point, we do not consider this to be a random-type killing,” Lt. Darrell Ouellette said, referring to last Friday’s execution-style shootings of Mindy Gould, 20, and Treven Cunningham, the 21-month-old toddler she was baby-sitting.

“It appears whoever did this was familiar with the area, familiar with the residence, and possibly familiar with the victims,” Ouellette said.

As the murder investigation proceeded into its fifth day, Ouellette said, “We have a lot of information to sift through, and as the days go on, we are becoming more and more focused.”

The detective wouldn’t say on whom or what investigators are focusing.

Gould’s older sister, Melanie Bragg, discovered the victims’ bodies last Friday morning at her home at 136 Church St.

Gould had recently moved into her sister’s home after breaking off a long-term relationship. The young woman was baby-sitting the child for her best friend, Cassie Cunningham of Garland.

It would be foolish for Jeff Cookson, Gould’s former boyfriend, to think he isn’t a suspect in the murder, his own attorney said Tuesday.

“But everyone is painting a one-sided picture of him,” attorney Dale Thistle said Tuesday afternoon from his Newport office. “Jeff is devastated by Mindy’s death. He is in shock and has gone into seclusion.”

Gould broke off a three-year relationship with Cookson, 36, several weeks ago, moved in with her sister in Dexter and began legal proceedings to make sure Cookson stayed away from her.

Dexter police reportedly had been called several times to the residence where Gould was staying, including calls to investigate slashed tires and broken windows.

On Nov. 30, after testifying that Cookson had harassed and stalked her, Gould was granted a one-year restraining order in Newport District Court, requiring Cookson to stay away from her and her family members.

Two days later, Gould was shot and killed, along with her best friend’s child.

According to Thistle, police immediately took Cookson into custody last Friday after the bodies were discovered. He was taken to the Piscataquis County Jail for questioning.

“But he was not interviewed,” said Thistle. “He was released after the Attorney General’s Office notified the police that they did not have probable cause to arrest him.”

Thistle said that throughout the ordeal Cookson was unaware who the victims of the murder were.

“When he first came to me, he was devastated, with tears in his eyes,” the attorney recalled. “He knows now who the victim was, but didn’t at the time he was detained.”

Thistle said his client did not harass or stalk Gould, but was merely trying to determine the status of their relationship after she left him without explanation.

“He did follow her to five different locations,” admitted Thistle, “but it was to ask her about their relationship only.”

Throughout the murder investigation, police have been tight-lipped about a possible motive or suspects, even refusing to acknowledge questioning Cookson.

State police spokesman Stephen McCausland confirmed that position Tuesday.

“We are not talking about possible suspects,” he said.

Thistle said Tuesday he realized the protection order is one concrete lead police must follow, and one that points to his client as a prime suspect.

But, he added, “there is a huge investigation going on. We can’t rush to judgment. We must also give these families an opportunity to mourn these unbelievable losses.”

Thistle said Cookson is “in seclusion. He has not left the area and is privately consulting with his attorney, family and friends.”

The attorney wouldn’t confirm whether Cookson is staying with his brother Roland Cookson in the Dover-Foxcroft area.

Meanwhile, state police detectives were back in Dexter, operating from makeshift headquarters at the local fire station.

“We are conducting new and old interviews,” McCausland said. Investigators are continuing to analyze items taken from the murder scene and surrounding area to the Maine Crime Laboratory in Augusta, he said.

McCausland would not elaborate on what those items were.

He said state police “have maintained a considerable presence in Dexter” since the killings but denied they were there to protect Gould’s family members.

“Absolutely not,” McCausland said.

http://bangordailynews.com/1999/12/08/news/homicides-in-dexter-not-chance-police-say/ printed on November 28, 2014