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Murder trial testimony focuses on drug use

Delbert Cooper \ Phofrom AurorPolice Department

Delbert Cooper \ Photo from Aurora Police Department

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Updated: February 16, 2014 6:31AM



ST. CHARLES — Renee Perry of Aurora died from an “unprovoked, violent and lethal attack” at the hands of Delbert Cooper, Perry’s crack cocaine addicted boyfriend.

Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Engerman used that description Tuesday to open the prosecution’s case against 31-year-old Cooper, who is accused of strangling and stabbing Perry inside her Second Avenue apartment in December 2011. Cooper left 21-year-old Perry to die under a pile of clothes in her bedroom before calling police claiming to be suicidal, Engerman explained.

“The defendant wanted drugs, but needed money,” Engerman said, detailing what Perry and Cooper argued about shortly before Perry’s death.

Cooper’s addiction to crack cocaine served as the only piece of common ground for attorneys in their respective opening statements at Cooper’s murder trial on Tuesday.

While Engerman and Cooper’s attorney, Herbert Hill, each told jurors Cooper smoked crack before returning to Perry’s apartment, Hill’s explanation of Cooper’s action diverged from the prosecution’s theory. He said Perry would grab a knife and threaten to cut Cooper every time he used cocaine. On Dec. 19, 2011, Cooper tried to fend off Perry in an altercation that led to her death, Hill explained.

Cooper and Perry “tussled” before Cooper, in a moment of “heat and passion,” tried to “choke her until she goes to sleep,” Hill said.

“He attempted to try to disarm her,” Hill offered. “In the course of this tussle, he obtains the knife and Ms. Perry is stabbed. He is extremely remorseful.”

Hill continued that Perry’s attempts to stop Cooper’s drug use went too far, and that the “insidiousness of this drug finds us in this place today.” Hill followed up by saying Cooper and Perry loved each other.

In his argument, Engerman focused on Cooper’s actions to discount any claims of self-defense or drugs as the reason Perry died, noting Perry was beaten about the head, face and neck by Cooper.

“The defendant gives several different versions of what occurred,” Engerman said.

In a police interview, Cooper said Perry came at him with a knife. He blacked out after choking Perry, and awoke to find her with a stab wound in the neck, Engerman told the jury.

“She probably got herself, I didn’t poke her,” Engerman said, quoting Cooper in the interview.

Engerman told jurors they will see the police interview, as well as surveillance video from the apartment building that shows Cooper at various times and locations around the time of Perry’s death. The video also depicts Perry entering her fourth-floor apartment for the final time. DNA evidence will connect Cooper’s blood to the scene, Engerman said, mentioning Cooper told police he suffered a cut to a finger while stabbing Perry.

Perry’s mother, Yvette Strawder, said she and her daughter had a close relationship, talking by phone daily. The women, along with Cooper, had shopped for groceries earlier in the day of Perry’s death. Strawder never saw Perry again after that, she testified. A concerned Strawder went to Perry’s apartment on Dec. 20, but was unable to contact her.



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