William Peter Cook (Dec 17, 1924 – Oct 20, 1950) was twenty-five years old when he was stabbed to death by someone unknown.
There was an altercation on Hopkins Avenue and Marion Street, Brooklyn, New York. Before anyone understood what was going on, Cook was stabbed and passed away the same evening at Kings County Hospital.
There is a lot that we don’t know.
- Who stabbed Cook?
- How many people were involved?
- What was the altercation about?
- Was the murder weapon found?
- Did anyone see this crime and file a police report?
- Did Cook managed to identify his assailant(s) before passing away?
We know that Cook was a World War II Veteran. He served in the Navy. Cook had his love for and dedication to the Navy tattooed on his right forearm: a daggered heart with the words ‘Death before dishonor‘ and ‘U.S.N.’ After his discharge, he worked with his brothers Francis and Robert in a roofing & shingles company.
Cook had three other brothers (Joseph, John, and James) and one sister, Agnes. Many relatives have passed away since. The ones left wish to understand what happened.
Understanding the Cook case isn’t just about who committed this murder. There are many open questions, hardly any information online, and what we have (see above) isn’t explaining everything. So, the family contacted me and with their permission, I am sharing the information below in hopes that my forensic science friends will chime in and can explain some of these issues. See below for more on this.
According to the autopsy report from October 21, 1950 by Dr. Edward H. Nidish the cause of death was a “stab wound of chest with perforation of lung & heart, hemorrhage, homicidal.”
There was “a perforation of the chest wall on the left side” about 1 – 1 1/4 inch in length running transversely. The “left lung shows a perforation on the anterior surface of the lower lobe about 1″ from its lower margin and about 2” from its inner margin.
This is part about the heart, see the picture on the right.
They found no evidence of injuries to the scalp or the brain.
Cook’s blood was saved to test for alcohol. The test came back negative, see picture below.
The report by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner recognizes Cook as a WW2 Veteran.
It also indicates that Cook was identified by his brothers Robert and Francis.
An interesting note at the bottom of the report: “while in the hospital was operated upon.” So, they had tried to save Cook’s life but unfortunately were unsuccessful. More on this below.
I do wonder if Cook had been able to say anything about the attack, the people involved, etc.
One of the many mysteries in this case can be seen in the picture below concerning Cook’s clothes.
The bacteriological and serological lab stated that they had tested several clothing items for human blood stains. They had received a belt, a shirt, a coat, a sport jacket, and pants from Police Officer Treutler on October 26, 1950. Despite the fact that Cook was stabbed, no human blood stains were found. This begs the question: how is that possible?
Were these Cook’s clothes or was there a mix-up? Why did the clothes only arrive at the lab on the 26th while the autopsy was done the 21st?
I wonder about the chain of evidence from the moment that Cook arrived at Kings County Hospital. He had surgery so nurses prepped him for surgery and took off his clothes. What happened to those clothes? Did they leave them in a locker, wrapped them up? Were they given to family or to police?
When Cook died and was transported to the morgue did his clothes travel with him? Why did they need to be brought to the lab by a police officer?
How did these clothes leave the hospital or the morgue or the medical examiner’s office only to be returned then to the ME’s office?
If you are stabbed in the chest, do you not always bleed through any clothing that you might be wearing?
Is there a difference in blood flow when the knife remains in place or when it is pulled out of the body? It must have been pulled out as the paper didn’t mention that Cook was found with the murder weapon on/in his body. So, the pulling out should have left some staining, no?
Forensic Science Friends’ Input
I got great feedback from my forensic science friends. The knife in question might have been so small that the wound basically closed back up after the weapon was pulled out. It isn’t so much that the knife was gently removed but that the wound was very small. Despite the fact that a wound is small, it can create massive internal damage. Furthermore, minimal bleeding on the outside does not mean that there is little internal bleeding. So, you can die of internal bleedings even if your clothes did not show a lot of blood.
Now, about the clothes. If there are many layers of clothing, especially absorbent ones, then that may decrease the amount of blood showing. However, no blood at all is unusual. So, this brings me back to my questions about Cook’s clothing.
You two are so generous in giving your time and always explain complex matters in plain English. I appreciate you both.
Solving the crime
I understand that whoever killed William Peter Cook is most likely dead now. However, they might have confessed to this crime upon their death. William Peter Cook’s family would appreciate it to get any information. Also, witnesses and hospital personnel from that time might remember details or may have written about it in journals that are now in someone’s attic gathering dust. I wonder how many police reports we still have about the Cook stabbing.
The police officers that handled this case were from the 81st Precinct. They list their Detective Squad telephone number as 1(718) 574-0455.
In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis and of course, more information can be found online and in newspaper archives.
We need to get these cases back in the mainstream media, to get people talking again, and if anything, to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are unsolved does not mean that we can forget about them.
I encourage you to share this post on your own social media platforms. By sharing these posts, the cases reach new networks, new connections, and new news feeds. Maybe one day these updates will pop up in the right person’s news feed. This may be someone who can actually help advance the case and that is my goal.
The case of William Peter Cook is the last in this year’s Case of the Month series. Please share this case online especially if you have a network in or around New York. Maybe, just maybe, someone can help.
Rest in peace, William Peter Cook.