WILMINGTON, Del. – A man accused of raping and killing a University of Delaware student, whose body was discovered in her burning apartment, was found guilty Thursday and could face the death penalty.
Defense attorneys had urged the jury to find James E. Cooke Jr. mentally ill.
Cooke, 36, broke into Lindsey M. Bonistall's apartment in May 2005, then raped and strangled the 20-year-old college sophomore before placing her body in a bathtub and setting the fire, prosecutors said.
Cooke, however, denied killing Bonistall and said they had had consensual sex. He also said he isn't mentally ill.
In court, he claimed his attorneys were working with the judge to railroad him and was finally banished from the courtroom by Judge Jerome Herlihy after frequent outbursts. The next step in his case is the death penalty phase. No date had yet been set for the start.
The jury deliberated just over two days before finding him guilty of murder, felony murder, rape, robber, three counts of burglary, arson, reckless endangering, and two counts of misdemeanor theft.
Prosecutors used DNA evidence to link Cooke to the killing.
During opening statements, prosecutor Steven Wood also played excerpts from a 911 tape in which he said Cooke, who is black, talked to a dispatcher about two burglaries at nearby residences just days before Bonistall's killing and provided details about the killing, which the caller suggested was part of a drug war involving white supremacists.
Among other things, the voice on the tape referred to "KKK" and "White Power" graffiti found in Bonistall's apartment. A handwriting analyst testified that the writing was consistent with samples of Cooke's writing.