Baldwin woman convicted of `execution’ of husband: Sheila Cooper faces 20 years to life in prison — (Mobile Register)

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Mobile Register (AL)

October 21, 1994

Author: GUY BUSBY Staff Reporter

BAY MINETTE A Baldwin County Circuit Court jury convicted Sheila Moorer Cooper of murder Thursday in a shooting the prosecutor called an execution.    Mrs. Cooper, 33, of Bay Minette, was found guilty in the death of John Louis Cooper, 32. Cooper was shot four times in the chest and then once in the back of the head on Feb. 19, 1994, according to testimony.

“This man was not just murdered by an angry wife,” District Attorney David Whetstone said. “This man was executed.”

Whetstone said forensic evidence indicated Mrs. Cooper shot her husband in the chest four times at a range of about 6 feet. When he fell, she walked over to his body and fired a final shot into his head.

A sheriff’s deputy testified he found the body in Mrs. Cooper’s back yard, covered by a tent cloth with a garbage bag wrapped around the head.

Whetstone said Mrs. Cooper bought a box of .25-caliber bullets three days before the shooting and told friends months earlier that she wanted to kill Cooper.   She faces a prison sentence of 20 years to life. A sentencing date has not been set.

She is being held without bond in the Baldwin County Jail, but a bond hearing is  expected today or Monday, according to court officials.

“It doesn’t bring him back, but it does lift a load off our hearts,” Michael Cooper, the victim’s brother, said of the verdict.

“It’s been a very difficult time for everybody involved,” he said. “But in some way maybe in future cases this might set an example for people who contemplate murder.”

Mrs. Cooper did not testify in the trial, but in a videotaped interview told sheriff’s investigators she shot her husband after he left her and their three children and refused to return. The tape was made the morning of Feb. 20, about eight hours after her 2:30 a.m. arrest. The tape was played for jurors during the four-day trial.

Mrs. Cooper pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. During the trial, Dr. Claude Brown, a psychiatrist testifying for the defense said Mrs. Cooper suffered from severe depression.

He said the heavy consumption of alcohol and the antidepressant Prozac had aggravated her condition and impaired her judgment.

Whetstone said he believed this was the first time Prozac use had been raised as part of a trial defense in Baldwin County.

He said he had been concerned during the trial that jurors also might not consider a domestic violence murder as serious a threat as a homicide committed by a stranger, particularly when the offender was a woman.

“I think this jury is sending a very strong message that a murderer is a murderer,” Whetstone said. “It doesn’t make any difference what sex you are and they are not just going to give you an easy out with Prozac or alcohol.”

Lang Floyd, one of Mrs. Cooper’s two attorneys, said he was disappointed with the verdict. He and Jim Scroggins, the other attorney, felt there was a chance to overturn the case on appeal.

Floyd said he could not comment on what issues would be raised on appeal until after he and Scroggins examine the trial transcript.

In closing statements to the jury Thursday morning, Floyd said testimony showed mental problems, drugs and whiskey had so damaged his client’s judgment that she was not aware of what she was doing.

“If you’re really planning on killing someone, like they say she did, do you go out and tell the world when you’re going to be the prime suspect?” Floyd said.

Floyd said she was taking two or three times the 20 milligrams of Prozac that had been prescribed for her for depression and was drinking a pint to a fifth of whiskey a day.

Two of Mrs. Cooper’s friends, Holly Huggins and Cindy Blanchard, testified the defendant called them the night of Feb. 19 and asked for help to dispose of Cooper’s body. The two women drove to Bay Minette where they told police of Mrs. Cooper’s request.

Mrs. Cooper was arrested in the restaurant parking lot where she was to meet the two women. Police first charged her with drunken driving and later that day with murder.

Record Number:  MERLIN_65729