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Cook sentenced to life on January double-homicide

COVINGTON, Ga. – Less than one year after filling an Alexander Street home with more than 50 bullet casings, resulting in the death of his wife and step-daughter, a Covington man admitted his guilt and was sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole Tuesday morning in front of Alcovy Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge John M. Ott. 

Amber Bennett, senior assistant district attorney for the Newton County District Attorney's Office, said the Jan. 16 incident started when Cedric Bernard Cook, 38, was involved in an argument with his wife, Tijuana Cook, 41. 

"The victim, Mrs. Cook, actually called her mother, Deborah Dickerson, in the midst of this fight to tell her what was going on. It was during this argument that the defendant shot Tijuana Cook with an AR-15 multiple times. He then picked up the phone and told Deborah Dickerson, 'I just killed your daughter,'" Bennett said. "Following the shooting, Michelle Dickerson, Tijuana Cook's daughter, had received information from family members that there may be some sort of argument going on at the house. She went to the house.

"Michelle was driven there by the two other victims, her significant other, Theodore Betton, and Kenneth Blash. Ms. (Michelle) Dickerson got out of the vehicle and went into the home where the defendant met her with the same AR-15 and he shot her multiple times as well."

After shooting Michelle Dickerson, Cedric Cook went on to shoot at Betton and Blash who were in the front yard. Betton was struck by the gunfire. 

Bennett said when the Covington Police Department arrived on the scene, approximately 56 bullet casings were located within the house, along with other weapons including other rifles and handguns. 

"Her (Michelle's) body was found lying in the doorway of the house with multiple bullet wounds and Tijuana Cook's body was in the kitchen with multiple bullet wounds," she said. "There was brain matter and blood splatter throughout the kitchen. She had been shot multiple times including in her head."

Bennett said Cedric Cook had left the scene of the incident, but later approached law enforcement and admitted to his role in the crime, saying "Y'all are looking for me, I did it. I got sick of them picking on me."

Alcovy Judicial Circuit Chief Public Defender Anthony Carter, who represents Cedric Cook, said he worked with the defendant to make sure he was advised of all of his rights throughout the process of his case.

"If it were up to Mr. (Cedric) Cook, I probably would have pled at the arraignment," he said. "I've had to talk him out of it on several occasions so we could make sure there was enough evidence to show that he is guilty. He has shown great remorse for what he's done and he wanted to take responsibility and he is doing so today, against my wishes. I've tried very hard to get him to exercise his right to a trial, but he wants to go ahead and get it resolved today."

Temeika Johnson, Tijuana Cook's sister, thanked the court for its work in getting justice for her family during the victim impact portion of the hearing. 

"Words cannot express the pain our family and friends have endured since this murder," she said. "The defendant's decision to take the life of a human being with no regard to the effect it may have on others is unimaginable. The loss of my sister, Tijuana Cook, and my niece, Michelle Dickerson, is beyond words."

Johnson said she battles with reoccurring nightmares over the memory of this incident. 

"I hope that every night you (Cedric Cook) lay there in your cot and you never forget the reason that you are there for killing two young, beautiful women who I loved so dearly and I miss so much," she said. 

Deborah Dickerson also issued a victim impact statement, expressing her loss. 

"I don't know how a husband could kill a wife and take the phone from her after killing her and tell me, 'I killed your daughter,'" the statement read by Bennett said. 

Cedric Cook, with respect to the family, agreed Tijuana Cook was a good woman. 

"At the same time, don't get up here pretending that it was something that it's not when it was never that. The love wasn't there. The love was never there from the family, so we can kill that," he said. "That's all I've got to say."

Carter asked Judge Ott to consider parole as an option when sentencing Cedric Cook on the charges.

"I'm always questioning homicides and taking of human life. There is never a good reason that is not justified under the law," Ott said. "It is senseless violence. That senseless violence has gripped our society right now. You can't turn on the television and watch the Atlanta news without seeing the violence that is run rampant out there."

Ott said he would not bend over backward to try to make it easier for someone who has "adopted the criminal lifestyle."

Cedric Cook, accepted a guilty plea on two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault – family violence, two counts of aggravated assault, theft by receiving stolen property, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.