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Rebecca Sue Gelhausen's
Story Rebecca Sue Gelhausen
was on her way to go ice skating when she was abducted and murdered
Rebecca Sue Gelhausen
James W. Cooper
Rebecca Sue Gelhausen
Min/ Max Sentence:
to life with parole eligibility
Next Parole Hearing:
A Deadly Encounter
On February 17, 1974 Rebecca Sue Gelhausen put on her dark
green corduroy jacket, kissed her mother goodbye, and headed
off to a local park to go ice skating with friends. Rebecca,
who liked to be called Becky, stood five feet tall, weighed
95 pounds, had long brown hair and freckles. She was a typical
12-year-old girl who liked to hang out with her friends, was
an avid reader, and enjoyed riding the bus every Sunday to
go to church. Becky was quiet, sweet, caring and loved by both
her friends a family.
While Becky was heading to the park, predator James Cooper
was hunting for his next victim. Cooper, a quiet loner and
a smooth talker, had just gotten out on bond after being charged
with raping a 14-year-old girl. The girl had just arrived back
at a barn after horseback riding when Cooper attacked her.
He was also the prime suspect in the case of 14-year-old girl
who had been abducted from a group home and raped behind a
local high school. When Cooper saw Becky walking alone he focused
in on his next target.
A Horrific Murder
Authorities believe that Cooper lured Becky into his car,
likely promising her a ride to the park. Cooper went to school
with Becky's older brother and she likely knew Cooper from
the neighborhood. Rather than take Becky to the park Cooper
took her to a rural area and parked on a remote access road.
Cooper then attacked Becky and sexually assaulted her. He tried
to rape her however he was unable to do so. An enraged Cooper
than wrapped half of a torn dish towel around Becky's neck
and forced her to walk with him to the river about 100 feet
away. Cooper then strangled Becky with the dish towel and dumped
her body in the shallow river.
When Cooper went back to his car it was stuck in the mud.
As he tried to get the car out several cars drove by and saw
him at the scene. After failing to get the car unstuck Cooper
hitchhiked to a friends house. The friend drove Cooper to his
car and helped him get it out of the mud. Cooper realized that
too many people had seen him at the crime scene and he needed
an alibi. Cooper told his friend he had went for a stroll in
the woods before his car got stuck. He said while walking he
had found a dead body however he was scared to tell anyone
because he would he would be blamed. The friend told him he
had to tell the authorities.
A Killer's Confession
The next day Cooper went to the police station and told them
he had found a body. The police officers recognized Cooper
as the man they had arrested for the rape of the 14-year-old
girl and the suspect in the case of the girl who was raped
behind the high school. Cooper led police to the scene and
they found Becky, fully clothed, face down in the river. Half
of a ripped dish towel was around her neck. She has bruises
all over her face, a contusion to her scalp, and abrasions
on her hands and knees. It was obvious Becky fought hard to
live before she was killed.
After seeing the body, and the fact Becky was found in such
a remote area, police became skeptical of James Cooper's story.
Police took Cooper back to the police station where Lieutenant
Charles Caldwell questioned him. Initially Cooper denied the
crime and stuck with his story of finding Becky during a walk
in the woods. He then said he did pick up Becky and tried to
rape her. Cooper claimed when he was unable to rape her and
he left her alive at the river bank.
Lt. Caldwell, an expert at interrogations,
knew better. He continued to talk with Cooper and gained his
then confessed to the horrific crime. He told Lt. Caldwell
that he molested Becky however he could not rape her. He
said he led her to the river with the dish towel around her
and when he got to the river he turned her toward him and
strangled her. He said he looked into her eyes as he killed
also described Becky's underwear in complete detail which
was something only the killer would have known. Cooper was
and charged with the kidnapping, attempted rape and murder
of Becky Gelhausen.
Two Trials, Two Convictions
While awaiting trial for Becky's murder Cooper was tried for
the rape of the 14-year-old girl. Based on the victim's testimony
it took the jury only 90 minutes to convict Cooper of rape
and abduction for the purpose of rape. Cooper was sentenced
from 3-20 years for the abduction and 4-25 years for the rape.
After his kidnapping and rape conviction
Cooper went on trial for Becky's murder. During the 13-day
trial Lake County Prosecutor
Paul Mitrovich presented 78 exhibits and called 31 witnesses.
The prosecutor showed jurors that tire tracks at the scene
that matched those of Cooper's vehicle. He called witnesses
who saw Cooper trying to get his car unstuck. He showed jurors
a board that had the half of the dishtowel found wrapped around
Becky's neck attached to it. Next to it was the perfect match
to the other half of the towel which was found in the trunk
of Cooper's car. He also admitted into evidence Cooper's own
confession which his attorney's unsuccessfully tried to suppress.
It took the jury less than a day to find Cooper guilty of aggravated
murder with kidnapping and attempted rape specifications.
Cooper was facing the death penalty so prior to sentencing
he had a psychiatric evaluation. Dr. Henry Lanter testified
that Cooper was legally sane and knew right from wrong. The
report also said that Cooper had no remorse and accepted no
responsibility for his actions. When Cooper was asked why he
talked to Lt. Caldwell when he refused to talk to anyone else
he said he thought Lt. Caldwell was stupid.
Cooper continued to deny his
guilt at sentencing. Prior to sentencing he told Judge John
Parks "Only ones who know
are Becky, me and The Lord. If you say woe to me I say woe
to you. May God have mercy on your soul. If it is up to you
to end my life I can't stop you." Cooper the folded his
arms bowed his head and said "Do what you may." Judge
Parks then sentenced Cooper to die in the electric chair on
January 15, 1975 citing that he could find no mitigating factors
for a lessor sentence.
At trial Cooper accepted his death sentence however after
the trial he was determined not to be executed. He filed endless
appeals and got his break in 1978 when the The Supreme Court
of the State of Ohio, after considering the judgment of the
Supreme Court of the United States in the cases of Lockett
v. Ohio and Bell v. Ohio, modified that all Ohio death sentences
be commuted to life imprisonment with the opportunity for parole.
A Child Killer Desperate To Go Free
Cooper then began focusing on getting out of prison. He filed
several appeals in hopes of getting his conviction overturned.
All appeals were rejected by the courts.
Cooper's available parole records
date back to 1991 and state his institutional conduct is "fair" and his programming
is "good." Cooper has pursued his business management
degree at Marion Technical College however there is no record
of any victims awareness program. The latest records from 2009
state "Inmate shows absolutely no insight or remorse regarding
this crime," and "there is substantial reason to
believe that the inmate will engage in further criminal conduct."
After being rejected for parole
several times Cooper had the audacity to take his case to
then-Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. Cooper
requested clemency be granted "Due to illness while incarcerated
and remorse for his crime." That application never made
it to former Governor Strickland as it was was denied unanimously
by all voting members of The Ohio Parole Board.
James Cooper was out on bond
for raping one young girl and he was going to be certain
his next victim could not talk.
He then kidnapped, sexually assaulted and brutally murdered
Rebecca Sue "Becky" Gelhausen. In 40 years Cooper
never shown any remorse or taken responsibility for his actions.
James Cooper caught a huge break when his death sentence was
overturned after the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional
and that should be his only break. Cooper is serial child rapist,
a child killer, and an animal who is right where he belongs,
in a cage.
Releasing James Cooper at any point who be a complete injustice
to Becky Gelhausen and her family and would demean his cruelty
to her. In addition releasing Cooper would pose a profound
and imminent risk to the community, especially to young girls.
Based on the horrific nature of James Cooper's crimes, his
complete lack of remorse, and his refusal to take any responsibility
for his actions, we believe Cooper should receive the maximum
continuance of ten years at all future parole hearing and should
remain in prison until the day he dies.
Please fill out the
form below to help block this parole.
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