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Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Robert Cook is convicted of attempted murder for the near-fatal attack in front of their three children
HILLSBORO — Pleading, scared and angry, the voices on the tape convicted Robert Michael Cook of trying to kill his wife.
It took little more than an hour Tuesday for a Washington County Circuit Court jury to find Cook guilty of attempted murder, assault and unlawful use of a weapon for stabbing his wife nine times while their three young daughters looked on in horror. He faces 71/2 to 15 years in prison.
The scene of the June 26, 2003, stabbing was replayed for jurors at the beginning of the four-day trial last week, when they heard an emotional tape recording of Cook, his wife, Margie, and their 9-year-old daughter talking to a 9-1-1 dispatcher. Several of the seven women on the jury and Kimberly Foster, the emergency dispatcher on the witness stand, wiped tears from their eyes.
“Oh please, let my mom live, let my mom live,” the eldest girl sobbed into the cell phone while waiting for police and paramedics to arrive at Ronjons Unlimited, 4945 S.W. Minter Bridge Road, south of Hillsboro. “I’m so scared, I’m shaking. I’m out here barefooted.”
Robert Cook, 32, was betrayed by his own voice on the tape. Jurors didn’t believe his claims that, fueled by a mix of anti-depressants and pain medication, he blacked out from rage before taking out the knife and didn’t remember anything until he woke up in the hospital.
On the tape, an agitated Robert Cook told the dispatcher what happened and gave precise directions to the scene.
“I just stabbed my wife and I slit my wrist,” Robert Cook said. “I wanna die.”
Then Margie Cook, sucking in deep breaths, took the phone.
“Where did he stab you?” Foster, the dispatcher, asked.
“How many times?”
Chris Colburn of Metropolitan Public Defenders Inc. argued during Tuesday’s closing statement that jurors could not convict Robert Cook because his actions were not voluntary or intentional.
Chris Quinn, the senior deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, countered that there was no medical evidence to support that taking a combination of methadone for back pain and amitriptyline for depression would “cause the defendant to commit a homicidal act.”
“That’s very different than some side effects,” Quinn said.
Displaying a folding knife with a 4-inch blade still covered in blood, Quinn noted that Robert Cook hid the weapon inside a portable toilet at Ronjons and got his wife there on a pretext that his truck was low on gas.
Robert Cook serviced portable toilets at the business, which also is known as Hillsboro Garbage. The couple, together for 13 years and last living on Southwest Wright Street in Aloha, had been fighting all week about Margie Cook leaving, taking the children and getting a divorce. She said her husband had threatened to kill her in the past.
Robert Cook accused her of having an affair. She testified that she was tired of being treated like a possession. “I didn’t feel like a wife, I felt like a maid and a secretary,” Margie Cook, 27, said.
The yelling continued in the family van, which they took to Ronjons to get Robert Cook’s truck after his early shift. He stabbed her in the parking lot.
Dr. Mark Kestner, head of surgery at Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center, testified that Margie Cook lost 50 to 60 percent of her blood from nine stab wounds to her abdomen, back, arms and legs. Had a Life Flight helicopter not carried her to the Portland trauma center in less than an hour, she could have died from lacerations to her liver, small intestine and lung, the doctor said.
Margie Cook testified that her husband made her stop at a portable toilet so he could get something. Then he told her that he had something to show her.
He took the knife out of a box and she turned to walk away. “That’s when I got it on the side,” Margie Cook testified. “I was on the ground and the girls were screaming.”
Their youngest daughter, then 4, told her father, “I’ll be good, just don’t hurt her,” Margie Cook said.
While chasing her around the parking lot and stabbing her, he was “growling, ‘This is what you want!’ ” Margie Cook said. “He said, ‘If I’m going to die, you are going to die. If I can’t have you, nobody can have you.’ ”
Robert Cook acknowledged he has a bad temper. Once he trashed a car after he scraped his knuckles while working on the engine. In high school, he attacked another student. And he was convicted of assault several years ago after a fight outside a bar.
He said he doesn’t remember any of those events and was surprised when police told him he had stabbed his wife.
“I wouldn’t hurt my wife, not ever,” Robert Cook said.