Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dad pleads guilty to felony murder of 5-onth-old son (Pulaski, Virginia)

Dad is identified as HOWARD COLE.


Pulaski man pleads guilty to capital murder of baby son Cory Cole

Howard Cole pleaded guilty to capital murder for beating and strangling his 5-month-old.

Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2015 11:03 pm
By Cameron Austin  

PULASKI — After Howard Cole killed his infant son, he placed the body in his car and drove to purchase alcohol. He began drinking as he drove around looking for a place to bury Cory Cole’s 5-month-old body.

Cole signed a plea agreement Thursday which will spare his life: He pleaded guilty to the capital murder of his son and was sentenced to life in prison. He could have faced the death penalty if the case had gone to trial.

He was sentenced to an additional five years after pleading guilty to unlawful concealment of a body.

Cole, 33, listened as prosecutor Mike Fleenor described the details of the night Cory was murdered.

It was cold on that night – Jan. 29, 2014. Temperatures dropped to single digits. After driving for several miles, Cole pulled off Draper Valley Road a short distance from Interstate 81’s Exit 89. He walked almost 600 feet from the roadside to a line of trees where he began digging, though not very deep since the ground was frozen solid from the winter weather.

He buried his naked son less than a foot in the ground and pushed a pile of dead leaves over the burial site at the base of a tree.

The next day, authorities arrested Cole on a charge of felony child neglect, but did not know where Cory’s body was, Fleenor said on Thursday in court.

As they questioned Cole, detectives said, “We know your son is dead. We need you to help us find him. Is he in the water?” they asked.

“No,” Cole responded.

“Is he in the ground?” the detectives asked.

Cole nodded and said, “Yes.” After more questions, Cole told investigators, “I’ll take you to him.”

Investigators found Cory’s body on the south side of Draper Mountain. They later found a pair of infant pajamas in a trash bin in Pulaski. The garment was forensically analyzed and tested positive for both Cory and Howard Cole’s DNA.

Cole was indicted by a grand jury in April 2014 on a capital murder charge. Fleenor’s office said at that time the death penalty would be sought.

Fleenor did not comment in court Thursday about why his office accepted the plea deal.

According to Medical Examiner Amy Tharp’s autopsy report, Cory had 26 bruises on his head and neck. Blunt force injuries and asphyxiation by strangulation were declared as the cause of death.

Cory was reported missing Jan. 29, 2014, by his mother, Samantha Warden, who told police that Cole, her fiance at the time, had left with the child. She signed an arrest warrant affidavit on that same day, after she witnessed Cole pick Cory up and yell, “Shut the -- — up,” before throwing him 4 feet onto a nearby bed.

Warden, 30, was charged with felony child neglect in Cory’s death. She pleaded no contest in April and is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

Custody agreements stated that Cole was not supposed to be alone with the boy, but on Jan. 29, he and Warden argued and she left the baby with him.

Cole sat with his defense attorneys Jimmy Turk and Steve Milani during Thursday’s hearing. He answered Circuit Court Judge Marc Long’s questions almost entirely with either a yes or a no.

Only a handful of people sat in the almost empty courtroom — a different scene from the full courtroom when Warden was sentenced.

Long, who has often been vocal in cases regarding child abuse, made no comment to the defendant.