Saying memories of the night he stabbed his in-laws to death began returning to his mind more than a year after the grisly crime, Bryan Cooke told jurors his memory is now “sharp” when it comes to the details of that night.
“You have a memory of convenience,” accused District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis after Cooke told his version of how he killed Gary and Gail Dodson inside their home.
“My memory is sharp,” he shot back, his legs bouncing uncontrollably as he recalled the events of the evening of June 28, 2015.
Cooke first told investigators he could not remember anything about the killings because he had blacked out due to an interaction of psychiatric drugs and over-the-counter medicine.
However, in taking the stand on his own behalf during the defense phase of trial Tuesday, Cooke said portions of the fatal evening began returning to his memory. Cooke said it is not unusual to begin remembering things that happened during his drug-induced blackouts months or years later. Cooke maintained he had woken up on many occasions in different states with no recollection of how he got there after taking heavy doses of the over-the-counter medicine he was addicted to.
As for the night he stabbed his in-laws to death, Cooke testified prosecutors had jumped to the wrong conclusions when they claimed he had broken into his in-law’s home to steal money and stabbed them in their sleep.
“Gary answered the door,” Cooke claimed, noting he had driven to his in-law’s home on Toney’s Lane in the Fairview community to apologize for his most recent drug-induced disappearance which found him waking up in a psych ward in Florida.
“I told him, ‘Pops, I’m sorry for everything I’ve done,’” he recalled, saying his father-in-law was angry about his latest indiscretion. “He said ‘We’re done with you and that you and Kelly (Cooke’s wife at the time) are getting a divorce.’”
At that point, Cooke claimed his father-in-law grabbed him by the arm and began smacking him in the face.
“I asked him to please give me another chance,” Cooke testified, noting Gary Dodson kept swinging at him.
Saying he feared Gary would pull a gun that he knew he had, Cooke said he grabbed a knife from off the table and warned his father-in-law to calm down.
“I told him to back off,” Cooke claimed, noting he then stabbed him. “I stuck it in his chest.”
Cooke claimed his father-in-law fell back on the couch. At about that time, his mother-in-law came running from the bedroom and jumped on his back.
“You killed him, you (expletive deleted),” Cooke claimed Gail Dodson yelled as she beat him while clinging to his back.
Cooke said he began swinging the knife at his mother-in-law and that she then went into the bedroom and collapsed against the bed.
Cooke said he got scared and discarded his clothes in the sink where they were later found by law enforcement. He took money from the victims and then fled to Jacksonville, Fla., in the Dodsons’ vehicle.
“Gary Dodson was 122 pounds,” Zavogiannis pointed out, adding Gail Dodson was only 94 pounds. “Was it necessary to pick up a knife?”
Zavogiannis noted Cooke’s version of events contradicted hard evidence in the case that showed Cooke jimmied open the Dodsons’ back door with a gift card that was found lying at the crime scene and then stabbed them to death while they slept.
“You conveniently start getting your memory back, when?” the district attorney asked.
“A year later,” Cooke replied, taking exception to her claim that he is a cold-blooded killer. “I’m not a murderer. I may be a lot of things but a murderer isn’t one of them.”