Kevin Cooper’s Case: Is He Guilty?
Kevin Cooper was born on January 8, 1958. Cooper is a death row inmate who is currently housed in San Quentin State Prison in California.
Cooper was convicted of murdering four people that happened in the Chino Hills region of California back in 1983. Cooper also admitted while he was in court that he kidnapped and raped an underage girl while in Pennsylvania during one of his burglary attempts. Cooper also was accused of raping a second woman back in California as well.
Since Cooper was convicted of his crime, he has been active in writing letters from San Quentin State Prison stating his innocence. He has been protesting his innocence and how racism played a huge part in the criminal justice system as he was an African American guy who was convicted by a non-minority jury.
Originally, Kevin Cooper was born as Richard Goodman. Kevin Cooper was born on January 8, 1958, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When Cooper was only two months old, Cooper’s mother put him in an orphanage. When Cooper was six months old, Cooper was then adopted by Esther and Melvin Cooper. This is when he was renamed as Kevin Cooper.
When Cooper was growing up, he went through physical abuse. Cooper ran away from his family home many times. Even as a teenager, Cooper was actively sent to juvenile custody many times.
Previous Criminal Record
Prior to Cooper’s latest crime, Cooper has a pretty extensive criminal past. Cooper’s criminal past includes burglary and rape.
In 1977, was sentenced to a one to two-year sentence for burglarizing a house back in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Later, Cooper stated in the courtroom that he did in fact, rape an underage female, who happened to interfere with his burglary of the house in Pennsylvania.
Then over the next five years. Cooper was convicted and sentenced twice for burglaries he did. He was then released on probation again in 1982. Then later in the year of 1982, Cooper fled his way to California from the Pennsylvania psychiatric facility he was in.
While Cooper was in California, he was shortly convicted of two more burglaries in the Los Angeles region. This is where he started serving out his four-year prison sentence. He served out this prison sentenced under his alias of David Trautman. Cooper was serving out his sentence on April 29, 1983, in California Institution for Men. During this prison stint, he was in the minimum-security prisoner section.
Then on June 2, 1983, Cooper escaped from the California Institution for Men through a hole that was in the facility fence. He was able to walk away from the facility into the open field across from the prison.
Chino Hills Murders and Arrest
During the morning of June 5, 1983, Bill Hughes went to a home in a semi-rural area located in Chino Hills, California. Hughes 11-year-old son, Christopher spent the night in this home. When he went to this home to pick up his son, he did not only find his son dead but Peggy and Douglas Ryen, along with their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica dead. This family and Hughes son were murdered with a hatchet, then sliced with a knife, along with being stabbed by an icepick.
The only survivor in the house was Peggy and Douglas Ryen’s 8-year-old son, Josh. However, Josh’s through has sliced.
Investigators found Peggy’s purse on the kitchen counter in plain sight, but no money was taken from it. Unfortunately, the Ryen’s station wagon was missing. It did resurface a few days ago in Long Beach, California, which is about 50 miles or so away from the residence.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputies were the ones who responded to this call. They early on suspected Kevin Cooper was likely the killer. Cooper even admitted to authorities that he was hiding out in the vacant house next door to the Ryen’s residence. That put Cooper only 125 yards away from the crime scene for nearly two days.
Cooper even made many calls from this vacant house to a few girlfriends asking them for money to help with his escape, but these girlfriends refused to give him anything.
Cooper then would testify during his trial that he had left that vacant house once it got dark on the night of June 4th. Cooper stated that he hitchhiked down to Mexico. It was certain that Cooper checked himself into a hotel located in Tijuana, which is nearly 130 miles south of Chino Hills around 4:30 pm on June 5.
Once their Cooper would befriend an American couple who were owners of a sailboat. This is where Cooper would hitch a ride with this couple on their boat cruising around the Southern California coasts.
It was not until seven weeks later; Cooper was still on the American couple’s sailboat; Cooper then was accused of raping a woman on another boat that was docked near theirs.
When the rape victim went to the nearby sheriff’s office to report this crime, this is when she saw a wanted poster with Cooper’s picture and identified him as her rapist. This is when coast guard personnel and deputies detained Cooper as he tried to swim to the coastline.
Kevin Cooper’s Case
During Cooper’s motion, the court changed the place where the trial was going to take place from San Bernardino County down to San Diego County. Cooper had already pleaded guilty to the charge of escaping from prison.
Josh Ryen testified during Cooper’s trial by videotape. Josh stated that the evening prior to the murders just before his family went out to the Blade barbecue, they saw three Mexican men. These men came up to the Ryen’s home looking for work.
Unfortunately, Josh was unable to identify the killer, but he went on to say in his testimony that he along with his psychiatrist that he saw the back of the killer who was attacking his mother. Ryen even told the sheriff, he thought the three men were the murders because they went to his house that night asking for work.
Cooper then took the stand in his own defense. Cooper indeed admit that he escaped from the California Institution for Men. Cooper explained how he was hiding out and even sleeping in the vacant house, but he also denied that he was the ones who committed the murders or even being in the Ryen house, period. Cooper stated that he left the vacant house on foot, then hitchhiked, even went as far as stealing a purse, and made his happy way down to Mexico.
Cooper’s defense team went on to point out the many inconsistencies in Josh’s testimony. The defense even went as far as to present evidence of the other events that did not even involve their client, but that may have something to do with the murders. The defense team even went as far as presenting an expert witness that even criticized all the forensic investigation methods.
However, in this trial, a jury indeed convicts Cooper of ALL four counts of first-degree murder and even on one count of attempted murder with the intention of inflicting great bodily harm, and they decided to go with the death penalty.
However, there was also a stipulation that was entered during this sentencing phase for Cooper. This was that Kevin Cooper was a man who also abducted a minor back on October 8, 1982, from her residence and raped her down in Frock Park.
Post-trial DNA Testing & Death Row
It was not until 2001 when Cooper was the first-ever death row inmate in a California state prison that was successful in his request for post-conviction DNA testing of his case’s evidence.
The results of the original DNA tests failed to exonerate him from the 1983 murders. The DNA tests indicated that it was indeed Cooper’s DNA that was present at the crime scene and in Ryen’s stolen station wagon, along with the hairs that were found on the three of the four victims were likely their own hairs, with a side of NO DNA belonging to any other suspects were present.
But there was a blood vial that contained Cooper’s blood, also had blood of second individuals as well.
A prosecution expert Daniel Gregonis also checked out Cooper’s blood for 24 hours without telling Cooper’s defense team either. This is a huge detail as the two key pieces of evidence relied on this blood sample from Cooper.