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Police announce suspect in Bonistall murder

At the June 13 news conference, (from left) Mark Bonistall; Capt. William Nefosky and Chief Gerald Conway
4:45 p.m., June 13, 2005--The Newark Police Department announced early Monday afternoon that, with unspecified physical evidence in hand, they have charged James Edward Cooke Jr., 34, of the unit block of Lincoln Drive in Newark, with the murder of 20-year-old University of Delaware student Lindsey Marie Bonistall.

The body of the sophomore English major from White Plains, N.Y., was discovered in her Towne Court apartment early Sunday, May 1, after an arson fire.

Newark Police Chief Gerald Conway and Capt. William Nefosky, who led the investigation, said Cooke was arrested Tuesday, June 7, on Delamore Place in Wilmington following a tip received from a member of the public. He was arrested as a suspect in the April 30 home invasion of another University of Delaware student, which police said from early in their investigation was related to the Bonistall case.

While Cooke was being held at the Howard Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington, Nefosky said police confirmed physical evidence to charge him with five counts in the Bonistall killing: murder in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, rape in the first degree, arson in the first degree and reckless endangerment in the first degree.

Nefosky said police believe Cooke acted alone and that the home invasion and later murder were “totally random” acts of violence.

Nefosky expressed appreciation to the numerous police agencies, including the University of Delaware Department of Public Safety, that cooperated in the effort and “to the public for the numerous tips they provided, including the one that led to the identification of Mr. Cooke as the perpetrator of these crimes.”

Mark Bonistall, Ms. Bonistall’s father, was present for the announcement and expressed his “appreciation and deep, sincere gratitude to the Newark Police Department,” which he said had been in constant contact with the family at all times throughout the ordeal.

James E. Cooke Jr.
“The Newark Police Department, the University of Delaware--you folks down here have been so supportive of us,” Bonistall said. “I look forward to making sure this person is off the street, so that people can go back to feeling safe, in the community and on the campus of the University of Delaware.”

Asked about his daughter, Bonistall said his fondest remembrances are of “her energy, her spirit, her power,” adding, “She was a very peaceful person, a funny and energetic young woman who could have accomplished a lot of things. She did more in her 20 years than many people do in a hundred.”

He said the family had been lifted up through prayers, letters and stories about the impact she had on others. “She touched people in such a positive way,” he said.

UD President David P. Roselle said of the arrest, “We are glad the arrest is being made. It is a great relief.”

Roselle added the UD community is “very proud of the Newark Police Department,” which he said displayed true professionalism in bringing the case to the point where an arrest could be made.

“What happened was a terrible tragedy,” Roselle said. “And, it was a tragedy made even worse by our knowing that the perpetrator was on the loose.”

Nefosky said the police department put in much time and effort in the case and was “pleased to be able to come to such a conclusion.”

“This sort of crime is not one that happens frequently in Newark, and we are grateful for that,” Nefosky said. “Our officers were able to rise to the occasion.”

Article by Neil Thomas
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

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