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Prosecutors aim to connect Cooper, deaths

By Staff | Feb 26, 2009

Prosecutors say Fred Cooper had the motive to kill, but can they tie him to the scene?
After painting Cooper as a spurned lover Tuesday, the state worked to identify him as the stranger seen in a camouflage jacket and on foot inside a Gateway community on a December 2005 night.
Steven and Michelle Andrews, both 28, were found slain in their Gateway bedroom on Dec. 27, 2005. Cooper’s longtime girlfriend had just begun an affair with Steven.
On Wednesday, Cooper’s former boss said he saw him cleaning and altering a camouflage jacket two days after the killings. Cooper spent about an hour with the jacket at his workstation.
“(He) was using spray chemicals and spray cans and solvent and things like that, and spending quite a bit of time on it,” Jim Peters said.
Cooper cut out the jacket’s mesh lining and threw it away, he added.
Peters called detectives. They retrieved the jacket and the mesh, and Peters identified both in court.
A former Lee County Sheriff’s Office detective, Christopher Stroka, recalled handling the jacket. Stroka said the material “had almost like a gassy, fuelly odor to it.”
A detective and a crime scene technician testified Wednesday that a search of Cooper’s home for the jacket, as well as a gun he was believed to own, produced neither on the day the bodies were found.
Also Wednesday, the property manager of Cooper’s former Bonita Springs neighborhood said an entry gate recorded the defendant returning home at 3:01 a.m. Dec. 27, 2005. The gate system at Village Walk had a laser eye that recorded unique barcodes on each resident’s vehicle, said Melissa Wood.
Another witness appeared to refute Cooper’s testimony from his first trial. Kelly Paren, the business manager at ManorCare Health Services, testified that Michelle was not near her office phone on a day that Cooper has said she called him.
Cooper testified during his first trial that he and Michelle occasionally met to discuss their spouses’ affair. He said she called him on Christmas Eve to set up a meeting.
Paren said Michelle was off from work that day and she did not see her in the office.
Jurors have already heard testimony that none of Cooper’s phone numbers were found on her cell phone or home phone records.
Peters said he did not remember Cooper getting many phone calls.
“If one employee would have been receiving an excess amount of calls, I would have confronted him,” he said.
Al Lukomski, a neighbor of the Andrewses’ who testified in the morning about seeing a stranger, said he never saw a motorcycle parked in the couple’s driveway when he drove by at about 11 p.m. Dec. 26, 2005.
Cooper testified in his first trial that he met Michelle in the driveway that night and had sex with her inside a parked car.
Cooper’s attorneys worked to deflect much of Wednesday’s testimony. Deputy Public Defender Ken Garber said Cooper’s motorcycle had no windshield, which translates to a dirtier jacket.
“Is it fair to say you’re going to get more bugs and road grime on you if you don’t have a windshield?” he asked Peters.
Responding to testimony about the gate at Cooper’s neighborhood, Assistant Deputy Public Defender Beatriz Taquechel suggested that the system may not have been maintained properly, leading to a malfunction.
Garber also noted that Cooper gave detectives permission to search his home, suggesting he had nothing to hide.
Cooper, 30, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed burglary. His first trial, in October, ended when a Lee County jury failed to reach a verdict.
If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Detective Walter Ryan, the lead detective in the Gateway killings, is expected to testify today. He will tell jurors about a pair of interviews he conducted with Cooper in the days after the killings.

Steven Beardsley is a staff writer for the Naples Daily News. Contact sbeardsley@naplesnews.com.