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  1. #1
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    FL - Mary Margaret Cook, 25, Highland City, 14 Nov 1970

    From The Charley Project:

    Mary Margaret Cook

    Missing Since: November 14, 1970 from Highland City, Florida
    Classification: Endangered Missing
    Age: 25 years old
    Distinguishing Characteristics: Mary may wear eyeglasses.



    Mary was last seen on November 14, 1970. She reportedly left her home in Highland City, Florida to go on a shopping trip at the J. M. Fields store in Lakeland, Florida and never returned. Her white 1959 Cadillac was found abandoned in the store's parking lot the following day. Mary's wallet was inside the car, but $200 which she had been carrying when she disappeared was missing.
    Investigators view Mary's husband, Leathern "Earl" Cook, as the prime suspect in her disappearance. He was interviewed extensively and in 2003, the police dug up the garage floor of the house they lived in in 1970, suspecting Mary's body might be buried there. They found no evidence and Leathern has not been charged. He has since remarried and moved away from the residence he shared with Mary. He maintains his innocence in her case.
    Some have suggested that Mary's disappearance is related to the disappearance of Peggy Byars-Baisden, who vanished from Highland City in April 1965. Both Cook and Byars-Baisden are the mothers of two children each, both were in their twenties, and they resided on the same street. However, investigators do not think the two women knew each other and have not been able to link their disappearances.
    Foul play is suspected in Mary's case but little evidence is available in her disappearance.


  2. #2
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    Thank you

    I appreciate your posting the information about Mary Margaret Cook. The Doe File and the Charlie Project each have a bit of news about her. Other then those articles, there's nothing to say that Margaret ever existed, except for the living legacy of her two children, her mother, brother and sister.

    No one really knew about the Peggy Wynell Byars-Baisden case until the Ledger article in 2003. Leathern "Earl" Cook and Mary "Margaret" Cook, were already married and living in their home 3 years on the same street that Peggy Wynell Byars Baisden lived on when she disappeared in 1965. There are a few things the article stated on which I'd like to expound. While it's true Earl's recently remarried, it's to his THIRD wife, not second, Margaret was the first. And while it's also true he moved out of Polk County, he did it shortly AFTER Margaret's disappearance. He "maintains his innocence "The detectives gave it their best shot considering what they had to work with. I don't know that they ever had the time to try to tie the two cases together. While it's true that after 35 and 40 years no one can prove that these two unfortunate women knew each other, perhaps they both knew Earl Cook.

  3. #3
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    Hey Earl....

    Quote Originally Posted by othermother
    .... The detectives gave it their best shot considering what they had to work with. I don't know that they ever had the time to try to tie the two cases together. While it's true that after 35 and 40 years no one can prove that these two unfortunate women knew each other, perhaps they both knew Earl Cook.
    The coincidences in the two cases are too obvious to ignore. Solving one could very likely lead to solving the other. Although Earl Cook maintains his innocence, it would be interesting to know what his record was like before and after the disappearance of these two women.
    Last edited by Richard; 02-16-2006 at 12:09 AM.

  4. #4
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    Bingo

    You're right but the detectives of today (2003,2006) seem to lack the time or interest in connecting the two. It seems over the ensuing 40 years for Peggy and 35 for Margaret that the records or files changed departments and buildings more then once. The original detectives have passed away, files have been lost over the years.

  5. #5
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    Mary Margaret Cook Missing 14 Nov 1970 from Highland City, FL

    Mary Margaret Cook
    Missing since November 14, 1970 from Highland City, Polk County, Florida.
    Classification: Endangered Missing
    Vital Statistics
    Age at Time of Disappearance: 25 years old
    Distinguishing Characteristics: White female.

    Circumstances of Disappearance
    Cook, a 25-year-old mother of two, was last seen on November 14, 1970. She reportedly went on a shopping trip to retail store in Lakeland but never returned. Her 1959 white Cadillac was found in the store's parking lot the next day. Cooks wallet was found inside the car, but $200 her husband allegedly gave her was missing.

    Cook's body has never been found and no one has ever been charged in her disappearance. Her husband is considered a prime suspect in the case.

    Investigators
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact: Polk County Sheriff's Office 863-533-0344

    Source Information:
    Bay News 9
    The Doe Network: Case File 1383DFFL

    Link:
    http://www.doenetwork.us/cases/1383dffl.html

  6. #6
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    Suspect...

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard
    Mary Margaret Cook ...
    Missing since November 14, 1970 from Highland City, Polk County, Florida.
    ... Circumstances of Disappearance
    Cook, a 25-year-old mother of two, was last seen on November 14, 1970. She reportedly went on a shopping trip to retail store in Lakeland but never returned. Her 1959 white Cadillac was found in the store's parking lot the next day. Cooks wallet was found inside the car, but $200 her husband allegedly gave her was missing.
    Cook's body has never been found and no one has ever been charged in her disappearance. Her husband is considered a prime suspect in the case. ...
    From this short summary, it would appear that all of the information came from the husband. He stated that she was going to the shopping center and that he had given her $200, and probably was the one to report her missing.

    Questions come to mind:
    1. Did anyone actually see her anywhere at the shopping center?
    2. Did anyone see the car driven to the parking lot?
    3. Why would she take only cash and leave her wallet on the seat of the car?
    4. What had the family situation been like?
    5. Was this guy abusive or violent?
    6. Where did he travel and did he have any favorite remote spots for fishing or camping?
    7. What other mysterious disappearances took place in his vicinity?

  7. #7
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    His Story

    You're right. The whole story of what happened that night was given by Earl Cook. What the newspaper reported as well. Most of the records of the 1970 investigation no longer exist according to the police. The original detectives were small town and it seems they were not the sharpest tools in the shed. No one went to the Cook home until the third day after he "found" her car, and the car was returned to him immediately, from what cold case detectives said. As far as I know, no one could validate her arrival or saw the car drive in to the Automotive Department of Fields, which was a free standing building set way apart from Fields itself. She drove a white 59 cadillac with fins. Back in November 1970 would it have stuck out the way it would today?

    Her purse was found "by Earl" in the car, but the "supposed $200.00 he gave her" was missing.

  8. #8
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    Old cars...

    Quote Originally Posted by othermother
    ... She drove a white 59 cadillac with fins. Back in November 1970 would it have stuck out the way it would today? ...
    Not necessarily, especially in Florida where it seems there are a lot of old people and old cars. The car would only have been 11 years old at the time, and Cadillacs tend to last longer than other makes for a variety of reasons. It is interesting that Peggy's car was also a 1959 model GM car.

    In 1970, in Michigan, I know that it would have been rather difficult to find a specific car of 1960 or earlier - even in junk yards. The majority of cars regularly on the road (in Michigan) in 1970 were under five years old, and ten years was really pushing it.

    I say this because I lived in Michigan then, and drove a 1960 Oldsmobile. When it was damaged in an accident, I looked all over to find used parts for it, and had a very hard time finding any. It would probably be much easier today to find those parts with the internet and computerized junkyards.

  9. #9
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    Thank you

    I'm going to have very limited computer access for an unforseen amount of time. Thank you to those of you who have helped me post this information about Margaret on this website.

  10. #10
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    Ledger- 2003

    Published Saturday, March 29, 2003
    document.title = unescape("Dig%20Fails%20to%20Find%20Woman%27s%20Bo dy") + " | theledger.com";

    Dig Fails to Find Woman's Body

    Sheriff's Office demolishes garage in hunt for woman.

    By AMY L. EDWARDS
    The Ledger

    HIGHLAND CITY -- Polk Sheriff's Office investigators made a final attempt Friday to find the body of a missing woman they said may have been buried under the garage of the Highland City house she lived in more than 30 years ago.

    It's been almost a month since the search began, and investigators said Friday they haven't found the body of Mary Margaret Cook.

    "We closed another chapter in a 32-year-old missing-person case," Sheriff's Office Col. Grady Judd said. "We are disappointed we didn't find Ms. Cook."

    The Sheriff's Office tore up the concrete slab beneath the Third Street house's garage and began digging on March 6.

    Crews dug for several days and then the search halted. On Thursday, the Sheriff's Office paid a contractor to demolish the entire garage. Detectives began digging again Friday.

    But by the afternoon, officials said they wouldn't dig at the site anymore.

    "We are satisfied we can close the chapter," Judd said.

    The Sheriff's Office said the current residents of the Third Street home are not part of the investigation and are not related to the Cooks.

    Judd said they have been "wonderful to us in the investigation."

    The Sheriff's Office is footing the $4,000 bill to replace the garage, Judd said.

    Cook, 25-year-old mother of two, was last seen Nov. 14, 1970, when she left her Highland City home to go shopping at J.M. Fields department store on North Lake Parker Avenue in Lakeland, according to police and newspaper accounts.

    Cook's 1959 white Cadillac was found in the store's parking lot the next day.

    Her wallet was found inside the car, but $200 her husband reportedly gave her was missing.

    Cook's body has never been found, and no one has been charged with her disappearance.

    The detective originally assigned to the case has died.

    Recently, the Sheriff's Office publicly called her husband, Leathern "Earl" Cook, a prime suspect in her disappearance.

    Earl Cook, who remarried and moved to Greenacres in South Florida, told The Ledger he is innocent.

    "I never killed my wife," Cook said.

    Cook said earlier he had nothing to hide and that investigators wouldn't find anything under the garage.

    "I ain't worried about it," he said earlier. "Nothing there but garbage."

    Judd said Friday detectives will continue to investigate the Cook case.

    "We suspect she was murdered and buried," Judd said. "We will continue to investigate."

    Judd said Earl Cook remains a suspect.

    "Certainly we do not want to focus on one suspect," Judd said, "but he had the opportunity and motive."

    Judd said he was "not at liberty" to say what Earl Cook's motive may have been to kill his wife.

    Earl Cook did go through extensive interviews early in the investigation, Judd said. But it wasn't protocol at the time to name him publicly as a suspect.

    Investigators wouldn't say what led them to tear up the garage floor and dig more than 30 years after Mary Cook disappeared.

    Judd said investigators would follow up with other information about the case in hopes of finding Cook's body.

    "Unfortunately, most of these cases don't get easier with time," he said.

    Investigators remain hopeful, however.

    "Relationships change," Judd said. "Sometimes difficult investigations become easier when relationships change over time."

    Judd said the Sheriff's Office is also hopeful that residents who once lived near the Cooks or knew the family might come forward with information.

    "There are still folks in the area that we believe know something," Judd said. "I hope somebody's conscience bothers them."

    To report an anonymous tip to the Sheriff's Office, call Polk County Crime Stoppers at 800-226-TIPS.


  11. #11
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    I'll keep searching forever

    There is a third article that I'd like to try to find and post. Do you think that it would be acceptable to post here if I can find it? This one was an interview done with Margaret and Earl's son in 2003, it ran in the Palm Beach Post.

  12. #12
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    Third Article...

    Quote Originally Posted by othermother
    There is a third article that I'd like to try to find and post. Do you think that it would be acceptable to post here if I can find it? This one was an interview done with Margaret and Earl's son in 2003, it ran in the Palm Beach Post.
    I would like to read it.

  13. #13
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    Palm Beach Post-2003

    GREENACRES MAN A SUSPECT IN WIFE'S 1970 DISAPPEARANCE




    BYLINE: SCOTT McCABE, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    DATE: April 26, 2003
    PUBLICATION: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)

    EDITION: FINAL
    SECTION: A SECTION
    PAGE: 1A
    MEMO: Ran all editions.



    Tony Cook barely remembers his mother, but he has vowed to find her killer.

    Police say he should start with his father.
    Polk County sheriff's detectives reopened the 32-year-old mystery of Mary Margaret Cook last month by digging up the garage floor of the family's former home in Highland City. They also announced that Leathern "Earl" Cook, Tony's father, now a Greenacres resident, was their main suspect.



    "I would hate it if it's my father and lose both parents, but I would like to see it resolved," Tony Cook said when investigators began snooping around. "I hope he didn't. I love him, but there's always that doubt."



    Tony's 35 now and lives in South Palm Beach with a family of his own. He was 3 years old and the younger of Mary Margaret's two boys when she vanished in November 1970. He remembers only flashes of his mother, his bottle and his crib. It's mostly an emotional recall.



    But in the month since detectives began ripping up the garage, Tony began his own investigating - questioning his father's family and visiting with detectives. Tony has even undergone hypnosis to delve for clues and lost memories.



    Earl Cook has always told Tony that his mother abandoned the family. Tony's not so sure. The more he learns, the more suspicious he has grown.



    Now, Earl Cook refuses to talk to him, Tony says.



    Cook, 62 and a Greenacres resident for nearly 30 years, maintains his innocence and told detectives that they wouldn't find anything under the garage in the Central Florida town.



    "I never killed my wife," he told The Lakeland Ledger last month, "and I want them to prove that I did."



    He wouldn't comment for this story.



    Learning through clippings



    As a boy about 7 years old, Tony Cook got in trouble for learning the details of his mother's disappearance.



    It was in the mid-1970s. He was visiting his grandmother's tiny house in Mulberry, where a living room wall displayed a framed portrait of Tony and his brother, Travis, with their mother.



    Tony knew not to bring up the subject of his missing mother. His father didn't even have photos of her. But that day, when no one was looking, he crept into his grandmother's bedroom. He discovered a shoebox filled with old pictures and worn newspaper clippings about his mother: "Highland City woman missing," "Police suspect foul play in woman's disappearance," read the 5-year-old headlines.



    Tony quickly shoveled the keepsakes into his little blue suitcase so that he could read them when it was safe. When he returned home to his father's house in Greenacres, he sat on his bed and stared at the clippings. He was too young to fully absorb the painful words in front of him.



    The thrust of what he saw: On Nov. 14, 1970, Mary Margaret Cook disappeared. Her 1959 white Cadillac was found, along with her empty wallet, the next day at a Lakeland department store parking lot. Earl Cook told detectives his wife, who was 25, had about $200 with her to buy Christmas presents for her two boys, Travis, 5, and Tony, 3. They never found her.



    'I had a lot of questions'



    Tony's stepmother found him on his bed that day, looking at the articles. She made Tony apologize to his grandmother for taking them from her house.



    "When I got caught, I had a lot of questions and a lot of tears," he said. "What happened to her? What was she like? Where did she go to school? Did she love me and Travis? Who was she?"



    The Mary Margaret Cook case outlived the life of the detective who tried to solve it. Dan Weatherford, a huge, gruff man, had investigated Polk County's biggest crimes, even discovering the controversial gun that sent convicted killer Willie Darden to the electric chair in a case that drew national attention.



    Mary Cook's disappearance was the only major crime Weatherford couldn't solve. After his retirement in 1977, he would call his department at least three times a year to remind them. "You figure out how to solve that case, yet?" his deep voice boomed over the phone, recalled sheriff's Col. Grady Judd. Weatherford told him,"I don't want you to quit. You can't ever quit, not until you solve it or until the suspect dies."



    Weatherford didn't live to see it solved. He died in a tractor accident in 1992.



    Judd, who looks more FBI than small-town deputy, is running the investigation now. He wouldn't say why he ordered the garage searched, but he believes more information is out there. Over time, he said, relationships change and someone may come forward with details they have held inside for years. After all, there's no statute of limitation for murder.



    "We're hoping that someone comes forward - before they go to their grave - to clear up their conscience and clear up the murder of a 25-year-old mother of two boys," he said.



    But after nearly a month of digging and demolishing the garage, sheriff's detectives turned up nothing.



    Earl Cook remains the main suspect, although he should be comforted to know that detectives don't focus solely on one person, Judd said. He had opportunity, he was the last to see her alive, and he was physically capable, Judd said. He wouldn't talk about why he would want to see his young wife dead.

    8-year-old marriage
    Earl and Mary Margaret Cook were married about eight years when she vanished. He often drove to West Palm Beach for painting jobs during the week, then would return to Highland City on weekends. He remarried two years after his wife's disappearance and divorced three years ago. He married a third time and lives in a modest, well-kept yellow house.


    Mary Margaret's 77-year-old mother still has two of the three Christmas gifts that Mary Margaret intended to buy her boys the night she disappeared. Gladys Barefoot bought the toys for her grandchildren that Christmas in 1970 because that's what Mary Margaret would have wanted, she said. One present is a red Radio Flyer wagon; the other is a heavy plastic elephant with velvet ears.



    "It's kind of hard knowing that your mother is missing because she was out buying something for you," Tony said. "That's a killer."



    He's worried that his older brother, Travis, saw something and has been holding it inside all his life. Travis, who lives in Lakeland working for the same tank-lining company Earl once worked for, is painfully shy, Tony said.



    Tony, who's married with a child and attending Florida Atlantic University to become a teacher, has had the same dream over the years - that police find his mother's body. She's buried toward the back of the house, behind the garage.



    Gladys Barefoot has the same dreams.



    They wake her up and she can't get back to sleep. That's when it gets bad, she said.



    When Mary Cook first disappeared, the Barefoots took care of little Travis and Tony. On weekends, Earl returned from Palm Beach County to stay with them.



    But it became unbearable for Gladys after detectives told her they suspected Earl.



    "Police had me watching him, making sure he didn't say or do anything suspicious," she said. "My nerves couldn't take it no more, thinking he did it. It was like sitting here with my daughter's killer and not knowing."



    Gladys finally sat Earl down and asked him, "Did you kill Mary?"



    Earl didn't answer. He grabbed Travis and Tony and walked out. He's never answered her question, she says.



    "I've prayed for 32 years to know what happened to her," she said. "I just want some closure. Maybe those prayers will be answered.



    "I'm a Christian. If Earl had anything to do with it, I'd like to know that he's paying for it before I leave this Earth. If he didn't do it, then I'm praying for him, 'cause I know he's hurting, too."



    Staff researchers Dorothy Shea and Sammy Alzofon contributed to this story.



    scott_mccabe@pbpost.com

  14. #14
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    Othermother, did you know that Earl was a suspect in his wife's disappearance when you married him? (not accusatory, just curious)

    Has Travis ever been hypnotised and does he still have contact with his father?

    Has anyone looked for the missing car lately, like on the internet? I'm not sure where to look, but maybe someone here does.

  15. #15
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    Three 59's

    The car he was driving at the time his wife went missing was a 59 as well. A Studebaker Golden Hawk.

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