Family of Murdered Man Searching for Answers

He had lived in the neighborhood for more than twenty years, and by many accounts, Earnest Cooks was the man you could always talk to, the man in the neighborhood that would help out others. So why did somebody kill him?

51-year-old Earnest Cooks comes from a big family, he's the oldest of five brothers and three sisters. Back on November 8th of 2003, that big family got a little smaller. Someone killed the man everyone called "Bubba."

Earnest was found lying dead in his front yard at 5535 Monarch Avenue. His brother Michael almost stopped by his house the morning it happened. "I had to work," he said, "left here for New Orleans. On my way out, I had this feeling I should have passed by."

But he didn't, and by the time he got to work, his wife called him with the news. His brother had been killed. The house where Earnest lived has since been torn down, but Michael hopes the memory of his brother's brutal murder won't be wiped away as easily.

Michael Cooks says he just doesn't understand. "Why would someone kill Bubba, the guy that everyone likes? He's that neighborhood guy, 'let's go talk to Bubba.' "

In fact, police say someone was talking to Bubba seconds before they killed him. They believe Bubba knew his killer, and they believe his killer knew he had just received his social security check. They think the killer was looking for some money, and things just escalated.

According to Detective John Norwood, "When it got out of hand, whoever it was picked up that weapon of opportunity, a chunk of concrete. I believe one of those chunks of concrete was used to kill him."

The person who found Bubba was one of the members of that big family. One of his brothers was in the house and heard Bubba yelling.

"By the time he was able to get up and make it to the doorway and get outside, the person was gone and his brother was lying in a pool of blood," says Norwood.

That brother, the man they called "Tussie," never got over the fact he couldn't help Bubba. "He died shortly after," says Michael. "He kept thinking, 'I gotta go help Bubba, I gotta go help Bubba.' He went into a depression and never came out."

It's proof that the victim of a murder is never the only victim; it affects so many. If you think you can help, call Crime Stoppers at 344-STOP. You can of course remain anonymous, and you could be eligible for a reward of up to 1,000 dollars.

Reporter: Matt Williams