Twenty-four years after police say a North Carolina man killed his live-in girlfriend, U.S. Marshals and Alpharetta police have taken him into custody.
Police tell Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik they captured Rodney Cooke Tuesday night at a home on Vera Park Place, off Kimball Bridge Road.
“Originally, authorities in Wilson, North Carolina, arrested a suspect for murder,” said Alpharetta Department of Public Safety Spokesman
, George Gordon. “It turns out that person was not the responsible for the crime, so that person was released, so then they took out arrest warrants for the person who did commit the murder.”
But, over the years, Wilson police told Petchenik Cooke assumed many aliases, even had a criminal record under some of the fake names, so they said it was hard to track him down.
“For whatever reason that warrant was never in the system, so for 24 years, the individual responsible has been on the run, has been living in society,” Gordon said.
Sauls’ brother, Ernest Melvin, told Petchenik a few years ago a friend told him he saw Cooke in South Carolina and in Atlanta, so Melvin passed the information along to police, who got the U.S. Marshals Fugitive taskforce involved.
“Mr. Cooke was taken into custody. He was transported to our jail, and he will be extradited to North Carolina,” said Gordon. “I really want to give a thanks to the U.S. Marshals, their Southeast Regional task force, because once they found out about this, they set up surveillance, flooded the area, they conducted their undercover operations and quickly identified him.”
Sauls’ close childhood friend, Chenika Pigford, now ironically lives in Alpharetta and told Petchenik she was shocked to learn Cooke was living not far from her.
“When you kill somebody in cold blood, a teenager, and you run for 24 years, that’s a person who don’t care,” she said. “He deserves everything he’s gonna get from this point.”
Pigford said Sauls was a happy, fun-loving person.
“She was the type of person that if you was down, you can go around her, and easily, you’d get happy,” she said.
Meantime, Petchenik learned that police found 16 people living in the home, and Alpharetta officials want to know why that was allowed.
“At this time, the city has a lot of questions, a lot of things we have to investigate,” said Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard. “You could have a violation of the Unified Development code, due to unrelated persons living in the same home. ;You could have violations of property maintenance code.”
One man, who asked not to be identified, said he and his neighbors called police many times on the people renting the home.
“We’ve seen a lot of traffic late at night, suspected drug deals going down, and most recently about two weeks ago, there was a woman being beaten on the back porch of the house, and 911 was called,” he said.
The neighbor said he wasn’t surprised police say an accused murderer would be living in the home.
“The activity that’s happened in this house the last year, it doesn’t surprise me,” he said.
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