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Nightmare finally over for teen victim

CONROE – Over three years after a South Montgomery County teen was viciously attacked by an early morning intruder, a repeat offender has been convicted and handed a prison lengthy sentence by 9th District Court Judge Fred Edwards.

David Earl Cooksey, Jr., 26 of Houston was found guilty of Burglary of a Habitation with Intent to Commit Sexual Assault. On Tuesday he was sentenced to life in prison. Cooksey was already serving a 60 year sentence from a Harris County conviction for what the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office called “a series of violent sexual assaults.” The sentences are set to run consecutively, and with time already served, Cooksey will be eligible for parole in 2067 when he will be 84 years old.

The scenario was every parent and every single woman’s nightmare. Around 4 a.m., on October 1, 2006, a 19-year-old woman was asleep in her apartment in the 8100 block of Research Forest Drive when a strange man kicked her door in. She awoke to her dog barking and what she described as a “large African-American male” approaching her, according to Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Joel Daniels who prosecuted the case. 

“He got on the bed with her, straddled her and started punching her in the face and head,” Daniels said. “He held a box cutter to the throat and he made it clear he intended to sexually assault her.”

The suspect also stuffed a washrag in the teen’s mouth and put a baseball cap over her face, Daniels said.

 But the suspect may have underestimated his victim. He laid down his box cutter and the victim grabbed it. A struggle ensued. Both parties were cut during the struggle in the dark room before she threw the box cutter. Daniels said investigators believe when the suspect realized he was injured, he decided to flee.

 The victim called 911 and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office patrol units responded and called for members of the MCSO Crime Scene Investigation division who removed bedding, the washrag, the baseball cap, and the box cutter the suspect left behind. They also collected evidence from a bloody handprint on the wall, Daniels said.

 With no other witnesses and the victim unable to identify the suspect, the trail went cold until 2008 when the MCSO Cold Case Squad’s Detectives Tom Duroy and Terrance Greenwood began to reexamine the case and submitted the baseball cap and other items for DNA testing.

The DNA from the cap matched Cooksey’s profile from several sexual assaults in Harris County, Daniels said. By then, Cooksey had already been imprisoned and released and had two bench warrants issued for his arrest. On Sept. 9, 2008, Cooksey was charged with Burglary of a Habitation with Intent to Commit Sexual Assault.

His trial began on Monday. At Cooksey’s request, there was no jury and Judge Edwards rendered the verdict and sentence.

Witnesses for the prosecution included the victim, patrol deputy (now Detective) Chris Tate, Crime Scene Investigator Celestina Rossi, Detectives Tommy Duroy and Terrence Greenwood, and DNA expert Kristi Wimsatt, a forensic scientist with the DPS crime lab in Houston where Cooksey’s DNA was compared to that extracted from the crime scene evidence, after an independent lab’s analysis connected it to Cooksey through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

Cooksey’s wife, Natalie, also testified, called by the prosecution. Daniels said Natalie Cooksey cooperated with investigators. While she claimed no knowledge of any violent behavior by her husband, she did recall a cut on his hand that required a bandage around the time of the attack.

The couple remains married, though Daniels said Natalie Cooksey stopped visiting her husband some time ago. 

Daniels was pleased with the outcome of the trial, as was District Attorney Brett Ligon.

“We are very happy with Judge Edwards,” Daniels said. “We think he made the right decision, essentially neutralizing an extremely violent sexual predator.”

Ligon issued a similar statement on Wednesday, saying Judge Edwards “recognized that James Early Cooksey is part of a class of extremely violent predatory criminals that need to be permanently separated from society.”

“I commend the fierce determination of the victim in this case as well as the fine work of the Sheriff’s Department and Prosecutor Joel Daniels who worked together to make sure Mr. Cooksey never again terrorizes the citizens of Montgomery County,” Ligon wrote.

Daniels also praised the efforts of Heather Cash, who was his investigator in the case. Though rarely mentioned by prosecutors following trials, Daniels said they perform an invaluable service, basically providing “all the building blocks of a trial.”

Cooksey remains in the Montgomery County Jail awaiting his return to a Texas Department of Corrections facility.

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