Bail denied for suspect in two deaths

Posted Jan. 21, 2000, at 1:11 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 24, 2010, at 1:12 p.m.

BANGOR — The man accused of fatally shooting his former girlfriend and the 20-month-old boy she was baby-sitting was denied bail Thursday by Superior Court Justice Andrew M. Mead.

At his arraignment earlier in the day, Jeffrey A. Cookson pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder. During a Harnish hearing for Cookson, Mead said the killings appeared to be “execution-style.”

A Harnish hearing is held to determine why someone accused of a capital crime should be held without bail. Cookson was returned to Penobscot County Jail after the proceeding.

The bodies of Mindy Gould, 20, and Treven Jacob Cunningham, the son of Cassie Cunningham, were discovered about 11 a.m. Dec. 3 by Gould’s sister Melanie Bragg. Gould had been staying at her sister’s home on Church Street in Dexter. Both victims were shot in the head with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun.

Treven’s maternal grandmother and great-grandmother wept in the courtroom as Maine State Police Detective David F. Preble described the crime scene. He testified that the bodies were found in the first-floor master bedroom.

Both victims were fully clothed and lying face down on the bed, which had been made, he said. Gould was lying on her stomach, her arms resting under her face. Her head was at the foot of the bed, her feet dangling over the end of the mattress at the head of the bed, said Preble.

Treven’s body, found resting across Gould’s calves, was perpendicular to her body, the detective testified. A pillow covered the upper half of the child. A second pillow was on the floor, a few feet from the foot of the bed, said Preble. The detective told the court that holes ringed in black, probably made by the bullets that killed the victims, were found in both pillows.

A 9 mm gold-colored bullet was recovered from Gould’s body, according to Preble. Another was found embedded in the floorboards under the bed beneath Treven’s body. Shell casings found at the scene matched those provided by previous owners of a 9mm handgun traced to the defendant. Cookson reportedly traded a generator for the handgun in 1997. Police have not found the murder weapon.

Gould obtained a restraining order against Cookson on Nov. 30, 1999, in Newport District Court. She told police in Dexter that Cookson had harassed and stalked her after she ended their relationship in mid-November.

Cookson owns a residence and used-car business in New Gloucester, but was arrested in Guilford at the home of his stepfather and mother, Melvin and Shirley Judkins. According to an affidavit filed by state police, Cookson often stayed with his mother or brother, Roland Scott Cookson, who owns an auto repair shop in Guilford.

Cookson wore bluejeans and a ski parka in the courtroom. His ankles were shackled, but his wrists were not handcuffed. He took notes on a yellow legal pad during the proceeding, occasionally pointing something out to his attorney, Dale Thistle, during the two-hour proceeding.

Thistle argued that his client’s strong family ties, his record of appearing in court when ordered to do so, and the fact that he had not fled when he knew he was a suspect in the killings, meant Cookson was not a flight risk. Thistle said that although Cookson had a criminal history, he had never been accused of a serious or violent crime. He said there was not enough “clear and convincing evidence” to deny bail.

Mead disagreed and ruled in favor of Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese. The judge said that Cookson’s past behavior indicated that the defendant might interfere or harass witnesses. He also ordered Cookson to give hair and blood samples to state police for a DNA comparison to those found at the crime scene.

More than 20 residents of the Dexter area, many of them friends and family of the victims, sat behind the defendant in the second-floor courtroom in the Penobscot County Courthouse. Most of them wore yellow and green ribbons pinned to their clothing. Yellow was Treven’s favorite color and green was Gould’s, according to Art Jette, a spokesperson for the family. He said they will continue to wear them until there is a conviction in the case.

There was a smattering of applause in the courtroom when Mead announced the denial of bail. Treven’s great-grandmother Lorraine Curtis clasped her hands together, lifted her face toward the ceiling and declared, “Thank you, Jesus.”

On the other side of the room, Cookson quickly clasped his mother’s hand as officers escorted him from the courtroom. Mead ruled that motions in the case be filed by April 1. No trial date has been set.

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