Victim Wanted: Al Kite, Robert Cooper, and the Genesis of Female Fear

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

Women live their lives in fear of men—every day, all day,
to our last day.  When our mothers warn
us as children about the dangers of talking to strangers we implicitly
understand that she’s not talking about unfamiliar women and children, it’s men, men with
their superior physical power and unspeakable, unknowable desires against whom
we must guard.  I don’t care how
physically large a woman is, or how many black belts she holds—when she is
alone in a garage or parking lot late at night and a strange man suddenly
approaches she will feel a frisson of fear.

I was trying to explain this innate feeling of vulnerability
to one of my male friends.  “Imagine how
you would feel on your first day in a maximum security prison,” I instructed
him.  “Imagine walking up the cellblock
with all of the other prisoners hooting and cat-calling—every last one
looking for an opportunity to sexually assault you and steal your
belongings.  That is how women feel every single
day.”

Is this fear bred into women?  Is it an atavistic impulse borne of a
thousand generations of women victimized by men?  Or is it merely imprinted on us by childhood
warnings and reinforced by a lifetime’s barrage of media coverage of
male-on-female crime?   Many serial killers profess to be surprised by
how little some of their female victims fight back—it’s almost, they claim,
as if the women are resigned to their fate.
Maybe these women are simply relieved that the worst has come to pass—the
terrible stress of waiting to be butchered by a man is finally over (comparable
to the relief felt by criminals upon being apprehended: “What took you so
long,” the Son of Sam famously said as the cuffs snapped shut).

I once thought I was about to be murdered.  Stranded by my friends, I exited a bar at
last call and found myself unable to locate an empty taxi.  It was a snowy evening and I was woefully underdressed,
and as I stood shivering by the curb a man that I’d been conversing with
earlier at the bar drove by and offered me a ride.  Although I wasn’t drunk I’d imbibed a few
cocktails, and even if I hadn’t been slightly impaired I still would’ve been in
dire straits—in my thin coat and short skirt I was certain to freeze to death
like Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl long before I located an unoccupied
taxicab; throwing caution to the icy wind I thanked the man and climbed into his car.

Soon after I settled into the passenger seat I noticed that my new chauffer was
acting strangely—in the bar he’d been amiable and loquacious, but now in the
car he was sullen and morose.  “So, do
you go to that bar often?” I asked, hoping to break the awkward silence.

“What bar?” he said, turning to face me.  In a staggering moment of horror I realized
that although he was similarly dreadlocked and bespectacled, the driver was not
the man with whom I’d been earlier conversing—in my slightly woozy, solidly-frozen
state I had gotten into the car of an absolute stranger.   At that very moment the car exited the onramp
and began hurtling down the highway; I couldn’t get out of the car. I was
probably going to die.

I’d read somewhere that the key to surviving an assault is
to keep talking (thereby reminding your attacker of your humanity), and thus I
immediately began to babble.  I talked
about how great the bar was, and how angry I was with my friends for leaving
without me, and how worried my family would be that I was coming home so late.  I then segued into minutely detailed
directions to my neighborhood on the off-chance that the glowering mute in the
driver’s seat had the vaguest intentions of depositing me at my doorstep.

Finally my presumed-attacker spoke. “I think I know that
neighborhood; there’s a little store on the corner, isn’t there?”

“There is!” I crowed, finally allowing myself a sliver of
hope; he was beginning to respond to me.  I babbled some more, keeping my chatter light
and peppy. “I am a human being.  I am a
human being.  I am a human being,” I
intoned telepathically.  “I am a human
being.  I am a—“

And then it happened.  We blew right past my exit on the highway, not
even slowing down.  At that moment I
knew.  I truly, truly knew—it was going
to happen; tonight I was going to die. My heart thudded in my chest.  Despite my abject horror I felt oddly
calm.  I remember thinking, “Wow, so this
is how I’m going to die,” my lifelong curiosity regarding my own mortality now
satisfied.  As we motored down the
highway I sat silently next to my killer. There was no need for chatter now, no
point in trying to escape; the die had been cast.  I would not live to see morning.

Then, unbelievably—no, miraculously—we got off at the
next exit and drove to my neighborhood via some byzantine back roads I didn’t
even know existed.  When I realized where
we were I almost wept with relief.  I
hopped out of the car in front of a house a few blocks away from my own and
sprinted to the safety of my home via a neighbor’s back yard.  Somehow, some way, I had been spared.

I know, then, what I would feel in the moments before my
murder; but what do men feel in similar circumstances?  Unlike women, men do not live in fear of
their physical safety.  The worst
scenario a man accosted in a deserted parking garage can likely conjure is having
his car or wallet stolen—not being viciously tortured for hours and hours by
a virtual stranger for no apparent reason at all.

I often wonder about the last moments of burly, bearded
murder victim Al Kite.  Fifty-three year old Oakey
“Al” Kite Jr. was a small-town North Carolina boy turned big-time corporate
accountant; his career had taken him throughout the continental US, finally
touching him down in Aurora, Colorado.
Although Al worked hard, homes in suburban Denver are notoriously pricey,
so in 2004 he advertised in The Rocky Mountain News for a roommate to assist
with the mortgage payments on his residence at 2002 South Helena Street.

The ad was answered by a prospective tenant named Robert
Cooper.  A well-dressed man with a limp,
Cooper completed the rental application and expressed an interest in sharing
Al’s well-kept home. Without verifying the information on the application, Al
agreed to grant him tenancy; the information Cooper had given was later
found to be entirely false.

Although some claim that Al’s small-town upbringing had made
him trusting—“too trusting,” according to his sister—I believe the reason
that Al neglected to investigate Robert Cooper’s background was more firmly
rooted in masculinity than geographical indoctrination.  Like most men, Al simply felt no fear—there
was no reason to investigate the information on the rental application because
the most dire consequence Al could envision was a sloppy roommate chronically tardy
with the rent.  At approximately 5’8” and
180lbs, hobbled by a bad leg, Robert Cooper was not an imposing presence—Al
would likely have found the idea of physically fearing his crippled new tenant
patently ridiculous.

Women, in my experience, do not share this sense of
invincibility; the worst thing that could result from allowing a strange man
access to our homes is our rape and murder, and thus we screen potential roommates
accordingly.  In fact, a female landlord
who had previously shown Robert Cooper around her home had rebuffed his request
to move in—she couldn’t quite put her finger on it, she said, but she
implicitly knew that there was something wrong with him.  Was it life experience or an inborn female survival
instinct that caused this woman’s hair to stand on end in Robert Cooper’s
presence?

On the day of Cooper’s scheduled move Al dropped his
girlfriend Linda Angelopulos at the airport to catch a flight east for a
weeklong vacation.  Linda and Al had been
dating for only 56 days, and en route to the airport they agreed to make their budding
relationship exclusive.

I am transfixed by
the image of Al driving home from the airport.
He must have believed himself to be a man for whom everything was
finally falling into place—he’d solidified his relationship with his beloved
Linda, he’d found a roommate to alleviate his financial pressures—and yet
every mile he drove brought him closer to his doom.  His final afternoon on earth was spent fixing
a leaky pipe with a neighbor—how is it possible that we don’t sense the clock
ticking down our last few hours on earth?

Linda spoke to Al that evening, the last contact Al Kite would
have with anyone besides his killer.  In
retrospect, she said, Al seemed subdued, far less talkative than his usual
verbose self.  Was Robert Cooper there
during that final phone call, she later wondered?  And if he was, was it possible that her boyfriend’s
strange demeanor was an indication that, even subconsciously, Al had finally
experienced his first inkling of Cooper’s true intentions?

When Cooper first surveyed Al’s townhouse he’d mentioned
ownership of a particularly large chair—Cooper claimed to be unsure whether
the bulky recliner
would fit down the staircase, and told Al that the chair would likely have
to be brought in via the basement door.
The police surmise that Al had been walking down the steps to assist
Cooper with this phantom chair when Cooper attacked mid-staircase, bludgeoning
Al from behind.

Further details of the attack can only be gleaned from the
evidence found at the crime scene, “the worst [he’d] ever seen,” according to
the veteran homicide detective who headed the investigation.  Al had been restrained, the police knew, and
likely tortured for hours, beaten and stabbed innumerable times with an
assortment of knives from his own kitchen.

It is especially poignant to me that Al’s own cutlery was
the instrument of his demise.  Had Al purchased
these knives himself, I wonder?  I
picture him in Williams-Sonoma testing each knife’s sharpness, ensuring the
durability of each blade—essentially vetting his own murder weapons.  Or were these knives that would ultimately pierce
Al’s flesh given to him by a friend or family member?  I can’t imagine the revulsion of learning I’d
gifted a loved one with the implements of his lengthy, agonizing torture.  How many times had Al used these very knives
to open mail, to cut vegetables, to pry open packaging—these most mundane of household
items transformed into objects of ghastly horror?

The police believe that Al was likely rendered at least semi-conscious from the
onslaught of blows on the staircase and thus incapacitated long enough for
Cooper to secure the ligatures around Al’s wrists and ankles.  What thoughts teemed through Al’s mind as he
drifted back to consciousness, encrusted with gore, his battered head aching,
his hands and feet bound against escape?
Could he conceive of the torment the next few hours would bring?  As women we are well-prepared for an
assailant’s atrocities—grotesque acts of violence against women are
ever-present in the media, and highly-detailed cautionary tales of butchered
women abound.  I doubt the idea of being
trussed and tortured by a stranger has ever crossed most men’s minds—as the
events of that horrible evening unfolded Al was likely shocked anew by each
atrocity in Cooper’s murderous repertoire.

Robert Cooper, certainly an alias, has never been
apprehended.  Upon investigating the
known facts the police surmised he’d been trawling for victims for weeks,
answering roommate classified ads in search of a perfect victim. Cooper’s
physical description varied at each encounter—his limp came and went, as did
a Romanian accent. The execution of Al’s murder was flawless: the ligatures were
taken to prevent the detection of DNA, and bleach was used to soak the murder
weapons and clean the drains after Cooper bathed.  Both Al’s phone and Cooper’s disposable cell
phone were abandoned in an area infested with transients; Cooper knew that the
phone calls subsequently made by vagrants would provide a plethora of
false leads for detectives to follow.

After the crime a mask-clad Cooper drove Al’s pickup truck
to an ATM and withdrew a thousand dollars from Al’s account; however, police don’t
believe that money was the motive for Cooper’s crime, as a substantial amount
of money was left behind.  In addition,
Linda assured the police that Al would’ve given his PIN number to Cooper
willingly, thus rendering the hours of torture gratuitous.  “If somebody would’ve said, ‘Give me all
of your money,’ he’d ask why, but he’d give it to you,” she claimed. Some
theorize that Al’s murder was what is known as a “practice kill”—a murder
performed by a professional assassin to hone his murderous skills, but the
police discount this theory as well; the numerous knives used and hours spent
in the commission of the crime bespeak a darker, more twisted motive.

When I thought I was about to be murdered on some level my
slaughter made perfect sense to me—I’d been warned my entire life that getting
into a strange man’s car would have dire consequences; although I was horrified by my impending death
I was not altogether surprised by it.
Al, I’m sure, saw no such foreshadowing—a large man, and more
importantly a kind and law-abiding man, how could he conceive that someone
would want to annihilate him? I’m sure Al never dreamt that his search for a roommate
would lead inexorably to his death.

The moral of this story is that we should all,
men and women alike, take heed—-the most banal actions can have unforeseen consequences,
and Robert Cooper is still out there;  
he may, in fact, be perusing the classified ads 
in your city
as you read these words.

Comments
  1. Sune Nielsen says:

    This story has fascinated me for years and every now and then, I will google it to see if something new has happened, but until now… no… I think this Cooper guy wants to be known, doesn’t want to be forgotten, and if he is alive, he will likely kill again. But as long as this story “lives”, he must be thrilled by the fact that people are fascinated by it and scared. You put a finger to one of the aspects of it. But such an intelligent man, as this Cooper might be – why then try to rent rooms at homes owned by women, if they would all be suspicious..?..well maybe he is just an opportunist, and maybe he gives a damn about psychology of men and women.
    Well, I have met people like Cooper, who were as cold as him, but not killing anyone, as that is fortunately not so common, so I am not surprized by his character, but by his “boldness”. He must have killed before, maybe as a soldier.. an agent.. and killing is like a job… a habit – a ritual for him.
    I am sure such a man is also online, and he would love to comment on his own crimes, and I wonder if one of the comments I have read should be by him. Why not? If so, I, as a man ;o)… wouldn’t be scared to have a conversation. I am sure, he is clever enough to cover his tracks. But it’s about time he talks with someone, I think..

    • I too am intrigued by Cooper’s boldness—to attack someone who is far more physically imposing than you bespeaks an enormous amount of self-confidence. I wonder if he’s committed subsequent murders? The description of the perpetrator of the Shirlee Sherman/Thomas Hunter murders bears a passing resemblance to Cooper’s facial composite, IMHO…..

      • Sune Nielsen says:

        Yes, being a Dane, the cases I can refer to may be somewhat limited, but, yes, the ones you mention bears a passing resemblance. And maybe there is a link. It is not unlikely that he has committed other crimes. Somehow, I think, he pursues the perfect crime, maybe it is not so important what kind of crime, rather it is the perfection in doing it, he pursues. It is like a game, a sport. He might have committed totally different crimes, and what we should be looking for is the perfection with which they have been comitted. But then again, having had success with one kind of crime, he may try that again, this would be human nature… but he is so obsessed by hiding his tracks, and committing the same kind of crime seems to be a possible way of disclosing more about the perpetratror, and I do not think, he wants to be caught. On the other hand, if the “audience” sees no connection between his crimes, then we would not be as scared, as he would like us to be. Assesing power seems to be a strong motive. Power through fear. He wants even men to fear him, which seems to be the biggest trophy, even though poor Mr. Kite was a somewhat random victim.
        Talking about enormous amount of self-confidence, we have a recent case here with a perpetrator just as bold as Mr. Cooper, a guy that succeeded comitting crimes for over 20 years, making him one of the worst criminals ever in Denmark, and as time passed, he just got bolder. His motive was for a great deal sex, and he comitted several rapes, and he is best known as a serial rapist. But his first known crime was a murder of an elderly woman, which he explained this way: “I would like to see how it was to kill a person..”. He also once set fire to a man for the fun of it.. Police did not see a connection of this man’s crimes until last year, and they said that this was partly because they were so different in nature. During his trial, he tried to smuggle a letter with his sperm out of prison to his son telling him to attack a random woman and place the sperm on her, so as it would look, as if the perpetrator was still at large… One of the worst crimes committed by this guy, was the rape of 4 women in the basement of a house over several hours, all the time, he was very calm and in control.
        In the end, it was his self-confidence that put and end to his crimes, as he forgot to be careful about leaving tracks.
        Now, our guy does not seem to have a sexual motive, though it might also play a role. At least, I do not think it can be ruled out. A guy obsessed by the idea of committing perfect crimes might take as long time to find as our Danish guy, and maybe it will even be more difficult. But again, his self-confidence might put him down some day. He is just human after all.
        One other example of a guy with an enormous amount of self-confidence is the Norwegian terrorist who committed his act of terror last summer. I happened to be in Oslo just on that day, and it was a very surrealistic experience. No-one would have imagined that. It just tells us that a Mr. Cooper guy is not unlikely at all. It might be a new kind of perpetrator we have not seen yet, as such criminals surface from time to time. He probably has his own “thing”, difficult to imagine for other people.
        One thing I think is for sure – he does not want to go to his grave not letting us know who he is. In his fantasy.. maybe movie-inspired one.. he will eventually be famous (infamous, right..) for what he has done. Maybe like Dennis Rader, he will let us know one day. If not, the story will not have and end, which is the same, as if there is no story, and this will not be ideal for this perpetrator, as I see it.

  2. What is the name of the Danish uber-criminal? I’d love to do a little research on him. His ploy with the transferred sperm reminds me of the arrangement Hillside Strangler Ken Bianchi had with his girlfriend Veronica Compton.

    If I may ask, if you’re Danish, how in the world did you hear about Al Kite? I wouldn’t think the Kite murder is the type that would recieve international attention. BTW, do you have any suggestions for other Danish criminals I might find interesting?

  3. Sune Nielsen says:

    His name is Marcel Lüchau Hansen (or Lychau or Luchau – may be written in different ways). I found this in English: http://universitetsavisen.dk/node/12999. Otherwise – – – Google translate ;o)..
    I don’t remember how I found the Al Kite story, but as soon as I read it, I knew it was something extraordinary. Basically, I am a person who is interested in stories, as I write for a Danish newspaper, mostly about religious subjects though. I read extensively about many subjects.

    • Thanks so much for the link; I can’t believe that a life sentence in Denmark is generally reduced to 16 years in prison—in America, regardless of the perpetrator’s age, we lock up our murderers and throw away the key. Do you think this great disparity in sentencing is a result of the low crime rate in Denmark, or do you think it’s the cause?

      • Sune Nielsen says:

        Sorry for my long absence. It would be nice, if something had happened considering the Al Kite murder since last time, but it seems not to be the case.

        Well, some people are actually locked up for life, but most are not. We often wonder why you are so liberal when it comes to possesing weapons? It somehow seems contradictory that you give very harsh punisments to murderers, but on the other hand, offers all the weapons a murderer might want to have without so many restrictions. You have a more – hmmm – moral society, with higher expectations to the behaviour of an individual. Here we have a more developed failure-consciousness. We do not expect as much from an individual, as you do, and, accordingly, do not punish in such a hard way that you do. But this also means less freedom in some ways, as less freedom is a consequence of fewer expectations. Weapons are not easy to obtain here, because we do not expect ordinary people should be allowed to carry eg a gun, as they would not have the moral strength to have such a weapon.

        Less moral expectations might be the result of a less religious society. Maybe neither of our societies are very ideal. Maybe a more ideal society would be one that expects much, but also forgive much. To put people away for ever and not show forgiveness is somewhat hopeless and without meaning – likewise, not expecting anything from citizens in a society is also somewhat hopeless and without much meaning.

  4. […] regaled me with tales of the various sexual acts he’d accept in lieu of a tip. Not to mention the night I accidentally hopped into a stranger’s car and took a cruise through the highways and byways of my own […]

  5. Monco says:

    This article is ridiculous. I am a man. I feel fear when presented with an unknown situation, I question those who raise my suspicion. If this article is anything but satire that shows the incredible levels of insanity that modern western feminism has risen to. Not only did the author use the death of an innocent man to play her case for women’s superiority but she also discounted ALL MEN as inhuman, not even fit to feel the emotions of a basic animal. I have been afraid in a car with a stranger, when I was younger I feared pedophiles, men and women alike, who prayed on young boys, alone and indefensible. But now I have grown up and with being an adult comes the responsibility to realize that people are people. White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Male or Female there are good people and bad people. I hope this author grows up, because if this becomes the standard for modern women to think of themselves as SO SPECIAL and SO WEAK then we are headed for some dark times in this society of ours.
    Is that what you will tell your daughters? “Be afraid, all men are bad because they have a different chromosome”. Life isn’t easy. Living in fear and denial will not solve anything.

  6. This author definitely has her biased “judgements” that do influence in her writing, but she is a very good writer & these are points that are worth making (even if extreme) because it does make you think from a different perspective. I think her writing is very insightful and do not think her narrow generalizations are meant to define any sex as inferior. I believe it is just her black & white perspective that comes out in her writing.

  7. John says:

    There is a killer from CA who goes by various names, the most common (but least appropriate) being the Original Night Stalker. The killer was very detailed and meticulous. The only real evidence he left behind was his DNA (as he raped his female vicitms). His murder weapon came from the crime scene (like a fireplace log in one instance) although he undoubtedly had a gun with him as he gained complete control over his victims quickly. Anyway there is no record of any crimes since 1986. The last crime was several years after the previous one so it seems like he may have been tapering off anyway. I think this killer enjoyed his crimes. Liked planning them and the rape part and terrorizing the victims. Must have been hard for him to stop but he really did not want to get caught as he went to great lengths not to leave evidence. He probably got married or something and couldn’t do his preparations adequately without getting caught. Then DNA came in starting in 1988 with the Timothy Spencer case and all his crimes could be immediately linked which might catch him.
    I’ve always wondered if this guy went back to killing what kind of a crime wolud he commit. First off it’d have to be detailed in planning. Second, no rape– now he couldn’t leave DNA behind. (He didn’t really care about credit for his crimes if it meant not getting caught.) I have long felt that the Al Kite murder was the type of crime he would have committed. Detailed planning, disguise, torture. Used a murder weapon from the crime scene. Took away the bindings (something the ONS did). Left the victim to be found days later. I’ve never heard of any similar crimes. The Kite case was on one of those psychic shows that never solve anything. I do think it was an ONS type crime, if nothing else. The motive was the perp proving to himself that he could do so more than anything.

  8. John McGrath says:

    I think the Al Kite killer may be the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker from California. The disguises, the fake accents, the troweling for murder, the height, the bludgeoning, the using of weapons found in the home, all matches. The only thing missing is the lack of rape. I’d always thought in the DNA era that this killer would not rape and leave a sample behind. But he always seemed more interested in planning and executing the crime and torturing victims anyway. His clean up was to remove trace evidence.

  9. Tyrone Streeter says:

    I think both genders have a comparable percentage that has intuition or caution, or a lack thereof. As a man, I would never get in a car with a stranger or drink alcohol in public, especially accepting drinks from total strangers. It drives me nuts that my sister drinks alcohol in public, accepts drinks from total strangers, and gets into taxis driven by total strangers, etc. It takes a person very trusting of the general public to do that. So often, it doesn’t end well.

    I got a creepy vibe from a stranger in my hometown asking me to go have coffee with him when I was in my late teens. I declined. He gave a predatory vibe and I don’t go have drinks, even non-alcoholic ones, with total strangers anyway. Nope.

    The ruse Al Kite’s murderer used with the gimpy leg is very similar to the arm-in-a-cast ruse Ted Bundy successfully used with many women he raped and murdered.

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