Aspiring Drug Kingpin Fatally Shot Newlyweds, Plotted Murder-For-Hire Scheme

James Charles Tooley was connected to the 2008 double homicide after his cousin turned him in.

December 29, 2021
(L-R) Anthony Cooper wearing a blue t shirt and Melinda Hotkins hugging Anthony both smiling in front of a white wall

(L-R) Anthony Cooper and Melinda Kotkins

Photo by: Discovery, Inc.

Discovery, Inc.

(L-R) Anthony Cooper and Melinda Kotkins

By: Aaron Rasmussen

The point-blank-range executions of a newlywed couple in their Oregon home led to police arresting an aspiring drug kingpin and later stopping a plot he hatched to kill a cousin who turned him in to authorities.

On Aug. 6, 2008, a natural gas company supervisor alerted police after a worker collecting a past-due payment at a townhouse in Gresham noticed flies as well as a foul odor coming from the rental unit. Responding officers entered the residence and found the decomposing bodies of Anthony Patrick Cooper, 26, and Melinda Beth Kotkins, 22.

Prior to the murders, neighbors noticed a stream of visitors, often toting backpacks, came and went from the victims’ home, and Cooper reportedly said he parked down the street because people were out to get him.

James Charles Tooley, an oxycodone dealer who sold drugs for Cooper and Kotkins, became a suspect in the case after a cousin reported him to authorities. Surveillance video and a fingerprint on a gun case recovered after the murders also connected him to the crime scene.

At trial, prosecutors said Tooley went to the couple’s home around 2 a.m. in late July 2008, and he shot Kotkins after she let him inside. Prosecutors theorized that at some point shortly afterward, Tooley picked up Cooper, who was just released from jail, and the two eventually made their way back to the townhouse, where Tooley executed Cooper.

“He had many hours to reconsider what he was doing,” prosecutor Don Rees said, according to The Oregonian.

According to prosecutors, Tooley’s motive for slaying the pair was his desire to run their drug operation and become a drug kingpin.

“[Tooley] had access to the money he needed and the drugs that he wanted, but to take over he had to kill Anthony and Melinda — and that is what he did,” prosecutor Chris Ramras said.

After Tooley was taken into custody in March 2009, jailhouse phone recordings show he arranged to pay $2,400 to another prisoner. The inmate was to use the money to post bail and then kill the cousin who turned Tooley in, prosecutors said, noting detectives were able to successfully foil the murder-for-hire plot.

In 2010, Tooley, now 48, was found guilty of two counts each of aggravated murder and conspiracy to commit aggravated murder as well as one count of solicitation to commit aggravated murder.

He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

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