Murderer Nathaniel Cook during his sentencing at Lucas County Courthouse in Toledo April 6, 2000.
Attorneys for confessed killer Nathaniel Cook filed a motion Thursday asking that he be released from prison.
Cook, 59, has been behind bars since his arrest on Feb. 13, 1998 for the aggravated murder of Tom Gordon. A plea agreement worked out in the case in 2000 called for him to be granted judicial release on or about Feb. 13, 2018 after he served 20 years.
Defense attorneys Pete Rost and Sam Kaplan wrote in their motion that Cook had “complied with and honored” all terms of the plea agreement as had Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates. The agreement was signed by now-retired Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Charles Wittenberg, but the case is now on the docket of Judge Linda Jennings.
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“A single bound act of compliance remains: for this Court, as Judge Wittenberg's successor, to order [Cook's] release,” the motion states. “February 13, 2018 has come and now gone; [Cook] remains in custody. The specific performance by this Court releasing Defendant Nathaniel M. Cook is now required. The express terms of the plea agreement compels it.”
The motion seeks “specific performance” of the April 7, 2000 plea agreement, but in the alternative asks the court to suspend the remainder of Cook's 21- to 75-year prison sentence and place him on probation. It cites a section of Ohio law that was in effect at the time of his crimes.
“Defendant Cook is eligible per that statute to have the balance of his prison sentence suspended; further he is entitled by the terms of the plea agreement,” the motion states.
The controversial plea agreement cleared up a string of fatal attacks on couples’ parked in cars and young women plucked off the street, raped, and murdered.
Both Nathaniel Cook and his older brother, Anthony Cook, confessed to investigators all of the homicides they'd committed in Lucas County, then took polygraph examinations to ensure they were being truthful.
Anthony, who was serving a life sentence at the time for the 1981 murder of Ottawa Hills Realtor Peter Sawicki, admitted to killing eight others. Nathaniel confessed to taking part in three of the slayings with his brother: the May 14, 1980 murder of Tom Gordon, 24, and the rape and attempted murder of his girlfriend; the Jan. 17, 1981 murder of Connie Sue Thompson, 19, and the Feb. 21, 1981 beating death of 12-year-old Dawn Backes.
As part of the plea agreement, the Cooks pleaded guilty to their roles in the Gordon murder but could not be prosecuted for the other previously unsolved cases. Mrs. Bates said families of their victims agreed to the deal so that they could learn with certainty who killed their loved ones.
Prosecutors last week asked the court to refer Cook to the Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center for an evaluation needed for the court to classify him as a sexual predator who would be required to register his address with the county sheriff for the rest of his life.
Judge Jennings scheduled a March 8 hearing on that motion. Mrs. Bates said once an evaluation is ordered, it could take up to four weeks for the court to get a report back, meaning Cook cannot be set free for a while.
She said she intends to ask for numerous conditions to safeguard the community. If Cook is found to be a sexual predator, she said, he will be prohibited from living near certain locations, such as schools. There could be numerous other requirements.
“We do have case law that supports electronic monitoring,” Mrs. Bates said. “There could be drug and alcohol treatment and testing. There could be mental health testing. There could be reporting to the probation department. She could, I suppose, even require him to participate in the re-entry program.”
Mr. Rost and Mr. Kaplan declined to comment after filing their motion for release Thursday afternoon.
“The motion speaks for itself,” Mr. Rost said.
The attorneys included with their motion an editorial The Blade ran a few days after the plea agreement was finalized in 2000. They noted that the newspaper called the outcome the “best possible conclusion to this long ordeal” and concluded, “It was, in all, a coup for Ms. Bates and her staff. She knew of grievous and unpunished wrongs. She imagined a way to right them, and put the force of her office to the task.”
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