The release of murderer Nathaniel Cook, back into freedom in Lucas County if he chooses to stay here, is the unavoidable consequence of the morally noxious plea bargain that was made with him two decades ago, in order to solve a group of heinous homicides.
Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates is right to explore ways to maintain oversight of Cook in whatever way possible now, including trying to get him classified as a sexual predator. Manifestly, he is one.
Such a designation would require Cook to register his address with the county sheriff every 90 days for the rest of his life.
Cook, 59, should be assumed to be as cold-blooded an individual as he was when he and his brother, Anthony Cook, carried out their random acts of violence in the 1980s.
As part of a plea deal, Cook and his older brother, 68, made full confessions to investigators about homicides they’d committed in Lucas County.
Anthony admitted to a total of nine killings, including the 1981 murder of Ottawa Hills Realtor Peter Sawicki for which he already was serving a life sentence. Nathaniel Cook confessed he was with Anthony during three of them.
In exchange for their confessions, Anthony Cook pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, in which he admitted to his role in the 1980 shooting death of Tom Gordon and the rape and attempted murder of Mr. Gordon’s girlfriend. Nathaniel Cook pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Mr. Gordon’s girlfriend and two counts of kidnapping with the promise that he would be released by the court on or about Feb. 13, 2018, after he had spent 20 years behind bars.
The flaw in this deal was that law enforcement and victims’ families assumed that other murders involving the Cook brothers would come to light. None did.
Now Nathaniel Cook is entitled to a judicial release order under the terms of a 2000 plea agreement. Unless the judge overseeing his case, Lucas County Common Pleas Linda Jennings, refuses to grant the order, perhaps because the commitment was made by her predecessor, Cook will be out of prison and back in our community.
Mrs. Bates’ determination to seek sex offender status has temporarily held up Cook’s judicial release. His attorney, Pete Rost, said he would hold off filing for the release until a hearing is held in Toledo on the prosecutor’s motion.
Mrs. Bates didn’t try to renege on the deal. It is water over the dam, in any case. But she is right to take every possible measure she can to restrict Cook.
Lucas County law enforcement now has the solemn and difficult obligation to see that the community is safe from this man. Evil exists in our world. And when it presents itself in persons and actions in our immediate community, we cannot afford to be soft headed. We must be vigilant and smart. The authorities were not smart in this case.
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