Family of University of Dayton student Larry Cook objects to suicide ruling at rally
Lawyer said evidence tells a different story
Kareem Elgazzar, WCPO Digital
3:34 PM, Apr 9, 2013
5:53 PM, Apr 9, 2013
DAYTON, Ohio - The mother of Larry Cook, the University of Dayton student who died last week, stood in front of the university's main entrance Tuesday pleading for answers about her son's death.
The 2012 Sycamore High School graduate died April 2 after falling from a sixth-floor dorm window, and while Montgomery County Coroner's Office Chief Investigator Michael Fox confirmed Cook's death a suicide, rally attendees and Cook's mother don't believe Cook would take his own life.
"Quite honestly, all I want is the truth," said Jennifer Rucker, Cook's mother. "My baby does not deserve the title you have associated with his name."
Fox said there was no indication of foul play and that Cook died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and body.
Chanting "uncover the cover up," supporters claim authorities were too quick to rule Cook's death a suicide and the family has hired attorney Christopher Chestnut to conduct an independent investigation. Chestnut also represents the family of Robert Champion, a Florida A&M drum major beaten to death by other band members in a hazing ritual on a bus in 2011.
Chestnut commissioned an independent autopsy by a pathologist and said there is no evidence suggesting Cook's death was a suicide. Chestnut declined to name the pathologist, only saying the pathologist was from a "major metropolitan area."
"His conclusive findings were that the injuries sustained to Larry (Cook) from that fall are not consistent of a suicide," said Chesnut, who is not licensed in Ohio.
Chestnut declined to elaborate the details of the independent autopsy.
Dayton police are conducting a death investigation and are awaiting DNA and fingerprint samples from the crime lab, as well as data from an electronic device, said homicide unit Sgt. Rick Blommel.
Blommel said there is no evidence suggesting Cook was with anyone at the time of his death at approximately 6 a.m. The screen of the window from which he fell was removed. Police are also awaiting toxicology reports from the coroner's office, which expected to take a routine four to six weeks.
Blommel said there is also no indication Cook's death was a result of hazing or bullying, although Chesnut has reason to believe so.
"Certainly evidence may suggest there is possible hazing here," Chestnut said. "Once we confirm it, we will certainly come forward."
Authorities do not have evidence indicating Cook was pledging or a member of any fraternity on campus.