An attempted burglary at her apartment this summer had unsettled Jennifer L. Cooke, but friends and neighbors say she still had a habit of leaving her back door ajar when her cat was out prowling their Grandview Heights neighborhood.
It was Cooke’s cat, Watson, and the absence of Cooke’s car that led neighbor Wanda Jones to check in on her late Sunday night. That act of concern led to the discovery of Grandview’s first homicide in 13 years and a growing unease among city residents.
Cooke, 35, was found dead in an upstairs bedroom of her apartment at 886 Woodhill Dr.
Grandview police have said little about their investigation. Unanswered questions include how Cooke was killed and whether she might have known her killer. Police said she might have been robbed but did not elaborate. They said last night that there were no suspects.
Wanda Jones’ adult daughter Jessica said her mother often cared for Watson when Cooke went away.
“We had noticed that her cat had been outside for a few days,” Jessica Jones said. They thought she wasn’t home because her car was gone, but Cooke hadn’t called to ask that the cat be taken care of.
Wanda Jones went to Cooke’s back door after11 p.m. on Sunday and found it unlocked. As the door swung open, she knew something was wrong.
“The furniture looked a little out of place,” Jessica Jones said her mother told her. They called police.
Neighbors said they had not seen Cooke since Thursday. Friends tapped social media in their quest for answers, urging anyone with information to call police.
“We knew that something was up (on Sunday),” said a woman who lives next door but did not give her name. “People didn’t know where she was.”
“She was an amazing person, an amazing mother,” the woman said.
Cooke’s daughter, who is 10, was staying with her father for several weeks this summer.
Police said yesterday that Cooke’s car had been found, and said it was impounded and searched.
Heidi Wagner, a friend of Cooke’s, said the car was spotted early yesterday on nearby Palmer Road by Cooke’s ex-husband, David Culberston, who lives in the neighborhood. He told Wagner that the keys were still in the car.
Culberston and Cooke were married in 2011 but divorced last fall, court records show. Wagner said they remained cordial, and Cooke didn’t move far when she rented the apartment on Woodhill Drive.
Cooke had worked since March as a clinical research data coordinator in the hematology division at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. She started as a laboratory assistant there in 2010.
It was in June that someone tried to break into Cooke’s apartment by pushing a chair beneath a window and prying at it with a screwdriver or some other tool until the glass broke, Wagner said.
“She wanted to get out of Grandview after that break-in,” she said.
Wagner met Cooke five or six years ago.
“We have daughters in the same grade,” she said.
She said Cooke was shy, kind and physically fit. She could be counted on to organize Girl Scout cookie pickups or baby-sit in an emergency.
“She was the kind of person who without hesitation would be there for you,” she said.
By Theodore Decker - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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