Running For Her Life : Rachel Cooke


Discovery

Missing since January 10, 2002

Rachel Cooke, 19, a popular and pretty, young co-ed, is home visiting her family in Georgetown, Texas, on winter break. When they last see her, it is 8:00am and she is asleep. In a phone call to her boyfriend in San Diego at 9:00, she says she is going for her usual 6 mile run. Witnesses see her jogging in her quiet, semi-rural neighborhood as late as 10:45am. Sometime after that, on January 10, 2002, Rachel Cooke disappears without a trace. She isn't home when her family returns that evening. But her purse and cell phone and other belongings are all there. Puzzled, at first her family believes Rachel will soon return, but when she isn't home in the morning, they know something has happened.

Her father, Robert Cooke drives her jogging route looking for signs of Rachel. Her mother, Janet, checks the hospitals. Finally they go to the Sheriff's office to report their daughter missing. At first, police assure the family that Rachel has just gone off for a bit and will soon return. There has never been an abduction in Williamson County, Texas. But it soon becomes clear that Rachel isn't coming home.

On Sunday, January 13, 2002, a full-scale search is launched with the Sheriff's office, Texas Rangers, FBI and hundreds of volunteers involved. Over the next months hundreds of square miles will be searched by foot and by horseback. Divers will hunt in lakes and ponds. Thousands of flyers will be pinned up, but no trace of Rachel is found.

Investigators comb her neighborhood for witnesses. Hundreds of tips come in mentioning suspicious vehicles sighted in the area on the day Rachel disappeared. Police sketch artists come up with composite drawings which are released to the media, but lead nowhere. Possible persons of interest are investigated but no one is charged.

The family is devastated. Robert Cooke tries to keep attention on his daughter's case with a daily journal and numerous media interviews. Rachel's mother, Janet, sinks into a depression. Eventually the strain over their daughter's disappearance splits up her parents and they get a divorce. The case goes cold.

In 2004, an official new effort to solve the mystery of Rachel's disappearance revives the case. The Rachel Cooke Task Force is manned by local investigators, Texas Rangers, an FBI detective and the City of Austin Cold Case Unit, but while detectives interview new suspects and follow leads, they are not able to charge anyone.

Then in August of 2006, there is an unexpected development in the case. A convicted murderer approaches investigators with a disturbing story. Under interrogation, he makes a startling confession that could finally put the mystery of Rachel's disappearance to rest.

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