Details of Disappearance
Cooke was visiting her parents' home in the Northlake subdivision of Georgetown, Texas in early 2002. She was on winter vacation from her school at San Diego Mesa College in San Diego, California. She was last seen by her family at 8:00 a.m. January 10, 2002, when her mother left for work. She was still asleep at this time, on the couch.
Cooke departed from her family's residence for her daily four-mile run during the morning hours that day, sometime after her mother left. She is believed to have started her run at approximately 9:30 a.m. She was last seen between 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. near Neches Trail, which is just 100 to 200 yards from her family's residence.
Cooke never returned to their residence and has not been heard from again. She was missed at 3:00 p.m. that day when her father came home to take her shopping and could not find her.
Witnesses told authorities that an unidentified male was driving a late-model white or blue Chevrolet Camaro or Pontiac Trans Am with white or black stripes along the hood and the trunk in the area of Cooke's disappearance. He was reportedly speaking to another female jogger at the time. The man is described as being in his late teens to early twenties with slicked-back black hair. He had a dark complexion and may have been Hispanic.
Some witnesses reported seeing a man inside the vehicle, which traveled along Navajo Trail and turned southbound on to Neches Trail. Sketches of the unidentified male are posted with this case summary. Some witnesses claim to have seen two men inside the car.
Authorities are also searching for information concerning a white pickup truck that was seen in the Northlake subdivision on January 10. The vehicle may have had a wide dark-colored stripe across its lower portion. Witnesses stated that the sports car and the truck stopped along the road to speak to the jogger shortly after Cooke's disappearance. A sketch of an unidentified male reportedly seen near the female jogger is posted with this case summary.
Investigators announced that one of the possible unidentified witnesses contacted authorities voluntarily one week after Cooke vanished. The individual was cleared of any involvement in her case.
In August 2006, Michael Keith Moore confessed to Cooke's murder. A photograph of Moore is posted below this case summary. He stated he attacked Cooke while jogging, knocked her unconscious, drove her somewhere and raped her. After murdering her, he wrapped her body in a tarp, weighted it with rocks and threw it into Matagorda Bay.
Moore has an extensive criminal history and has spent nearly all of his adult life in prison. His father stated he began to get into trouble with the law at the age of 13, and many of his known offenses involve sexual misconduct and/or violence. At the time of his confession in Cooke's case, he was already in police custody after being convicted of murdering a pregnant woman.
He agreed to plead guilty to Cooke's murder in November 2006 in exchange for a sentence of life in prison, but in court Moore reneged and pleaded not guilty in Cooke's case.
Moore told the media he had been toying with authorities when he confessed to killing Cooke, and that he got special treatment in prison in exchange for his cooperation. He stated he had nothing to do with her disappearance and the police should have known that.
Prosecutors announced that he will go to trial for Cooke's murder. Her remains have not been found, but investigators believe Moore's confession was accurate.
Cooke was an accomplished cross-country runner at the time of her disappearance. All of her personal belongings were left behind at her family's home, where her parents and younger sister then resided. (Her father died of natural causes in November 2014, at age 59.)
At the time of her disappearance, Cooke was a student at Mesa Junior College in California and was planning to transfer to a college in Los Angeles, California to study fashion design. She has no history of leaving her family home without warning; she always left a note saying where she would be going.
Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.