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FL MARY MARGARET COOK: Missing from Highland City, FL- 14 November 1970 - Age 25

Discussion in 'Missing 1900 to 1979' started by KareBear, May 4, 2019.

  1. KareBear

    KareBear Well-Known Member

    Mary Margaret Cook
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    Mary, circa 1970; Leathern "Earl" Cook in the 1970s

    • Missing Since11/14/1970
    • Missing FromHighland City, Florida
    • Classification Endangered Missing
    • Date of Birth 04/26/1945 (74)
    • Age 25 years old
    • Height and Weight4'11, 145 - 150 pounds
    • Clothing/Jewelry DescriptionPossibly a green dress.
    • Medical ConditionsMary may have been pregnant at the time of her disappearance.
    • Distinguishing CharacteristicsBiracial (Caucasian/Native American) female. Brown hair, blue/hazel eyes. Mary wears cats-eye eyeglasses and cannot see without them. She had excellent teeth in 1970 and had never needed dental care. She has a birthmark on the outside of her right leg, above her ankle.
    Details of Disappearance
    Mary was last seen on November 14, 1970. Her husband says she left her home in Highland City, Florida to go on a shopping trip at the J. M. Fields store in Lakeland, Florida and buy Christmas presents for her two sons, then aged five and three. She never returned.

    Her white 1959 Cadillac coupe was found abandoned in the store's parking lot the following day. Mary's wallet and purse were inside the car, but $200 which her husband supposedly gave her for the presents was missing. She left behind her wedding rings, which she normally wore all the time. No one saw her or her car at the store that day.

    Investigators view Mary's husband, Leathern "Earl" Cook, as the prime suspect in her disappearance. A photo of him is posted with this case summary. They had been married for eight years at the time of Mary's disappearance in 1970.

    Earl was interviewed extensively and in 2003, the police dug up the garage floor of the house they lived in in 1970, suspecting Mary's body might be buried there. Earl also provided them with a blood sample. They found no evidence and Earl was never charged.

    He always maintained his innocence in her case and told their children that Mary left of her own accord. Earl remarried two years after Mary's disappearance, got divorced in 2000, married a third time and died in Greenacres, Florida in 2007, at the age of 66.

    Mary's oldest son stated he saw his parents arguing on the day of his mother's disappearance and that Earl told him not to look outside. He believes Mary's body was concealed in a red blanket from the house and was buried within some hours' distance of Highland City.

    Mary's mother took care of her sons for some time after her disappearance, but when she found out the police suspected Earl was involved, she confronted him and directly asked if he'd killed Mary. He never answered; instead, he simply took the boys and left.

    Some have suggested that Mary's disappearance is related to the disappearance of Peggy Byars-Baisden, who vanished from Highland City in April 1965. Both Mary and Byars-Baisden are the mothers of two children each, both were in their twenties, and they resided on the same street. However, investigators do not think the two women knew each other and have not been able to link their disappearances.

    Mary was a stay-at-home mother at the time of her disappearance. Earl often went to West Palm Beach, Florida, hours away from Highland City, for painting jobs during the week and returned to Highland City to spend weekends at home. Foul play is suspected in Mary's case, but little evidence is available in her disappearance.
    Investigating Agency
    • Polk County Sheriff's Office 863-533-0344
    Source Information
    Updated 8 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated March 9, 2016; details of disappearance updated.


    Media - https://crimewatchers.net/forum/index.php?media/mary-margaret-cook-has-been-missing-since-november-14-1970-from-highland-city-polk-county-florida.4577/
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2019
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  2. KareBear

    KareBear Well-Known Member

    The Doe Network:
    Case File 1383DFFL

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Mary Margaret Cook
    Missing since November 14, 1970 from Highland City, Polk County, Florida.
    Classification: Endangered Missing

    Vital Statistics
    Date Of Birth: April 26, 1945
    Age at Time of Disappearance: 25 years old
    Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 4' 11"; 145-150 lbs.
    Distinguishing Characteristics: White female (one-half Native). Brown hair; hazel/blue eyes. She always wore glasses at the time of her disappearance.
    Marks, Scars: She has a birthmark above her ankle outside on her right leg.
    Other: She may have been pregnant at the time of her disappearance.
    Dentals: She never had dental work; she had an excellent set of teeth.
    DNA: Pending

    Circumstances of Disappearance
    Cook, a 25-year-old mother of two, was last seen on November 14, 1970. She reportedly went on a shopping trip to retail store in Lakeland but never returned. There was no eyewitness to Margaret going to the store but her husband. Her 1959 white Cadillac was found in the store's parking lot the next day. Cooks wallet was found inside the car, but $200 her husband allegedly gave her was missing. She never took off her wedding rings, yet the rings were found at the house.
    Cook's body has never been found and no one has ever been charged in her disappearance.

    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

    Polk County Sheriff's Office
    Detective Dusty Kendrick

    Agency Case #: 2008-152883

    NCIC Number: M-557539294
    Please refer to this number when contacting any agency with information regarding this case.

    Source Information:
    Bay News 9
    Cold Case Investigations

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  3. KareBear

    KareBear Well-Known Member

    Christopher Sherman, Sentinel Staff Writer
    HIGHLAND CITY -- The mystery of Mary Margaret Cook's disappearance has lived on longer than the known life of the 25-year-old who went out Christmas shopping Nov. 14, 1970, and never returned to her husband and two young sons.

    The mystery also has outlived the Polk County deputy sheriff who wrote the original report and Capt. Dan Weatherford, the first detective assigned to the case, who died in a tractor accident in 1992, more than a decade after retiring.

    So it came as a surprise to many when the Polk County Sheriff's Office announced earlier this month that it would be digging up the garage floor of Cook's former home in this small town south of Lakeland on a tip that her remains might be buried there.


    Police questioned Cook's husband, Leathern "Earl" Cook, 61. Cook, who lives near West Palm Beach, denied killing his wife. He could not be reached for comment.
    Digging at the site resumed Friday after a two-week hiatus. Deputies and county workers had removed a large garage that dwarfed the single-story white house with yellow trim. They began excavating the area, digging slowly to a depth of five feet.

    Sgt. Michael Reckart, who runs the sheriff's major-crimes bureau, supervised the digging at the house on Third Street in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood of mobile homes and single-family houses.

    The labored roar of a backhoe broke the quiet of the sleepy community Friday morning as about 10 deputies in jeans and work boots watched the machine pull away scoops of earth six inches at a time. With each scoop, eyes focused on the void just opened by the shovel for clues, then darted back to the shovel as it slowly poured its load onto the pile to be combed through by two men with rakes and hoes.

    For more than two hours it continued with slow persistence, until about 10:45 a.m.
    Deputies circled the pile. One moved in with a camera, another ran for a bag. The 4-inch piece of bone was the largest they had found. Other fragments had turned out to be animal remains, but it offered temporary hope. Deputies set up a sifter to search for other fragments, but found little.

    Hours later, a doctor in the morgue of Lakeland Regional Medical Center would confirm the bone was not a human's.

    Earl Cook and his wife, whom everyone knew as Margaret, had been married about eight years before she vanished. They had two sons, Travis, who was 5 when she disappeared, and Tony, 3 at the time.

    Margaret Cook was known as a devoted mother, so the idea that she deserted her children was dropped long ago, said Roland Cook, the brother of Earl.

    "If those kids coughed twice they'd be on their way to the doctor," said Cook, who was 16 when his brother's wife disappeared. "She didn't up and leave. She's not one to abandon the children."

    He remembers it was a Sunday morning when he heard Margaret had disappeared. Her 1959 white Cadillac was found at a J.M. Fields store in nearby Lakeland, along with her wallet that her husband said was missing $200.

    Earl Cook was a painter who built the garage behind the Third Street house. He occasionally worked on cars there. His brother also remembers mixing machines, which he used to experiment with a marble mixture.

    Earl and Margaret Cook bought the house in the early 1960s, but by the time Margaret disappeared, her husband was painting in West Palm Beach during the week and returning on weekends to see the family.

    Investigators will only say that a tip led them to the old garage, though Judd said it had been a suspicion for years.

    Roland Cook, who lives in Bartow, said he knew they were wasting their time because the garage was built three years before Margaret's disappearance.

    But Judd is satisfied one more lead has been exhausted and is confident someone who knows what happened eventually will want to clear his or her conscience.

    "It has allowed us to close another chapter in this 32-year-old investigation," Judd said. "We still believe she died as the result of a vicious homicide."

    Roland Cook, 48, is skeptical of the recent developments in the case after so many years. He says he thinks elements of the original case file have been lost over time, but does not blame investigators for trying.

    "The circumstances are strange," he said. "I've had 30 years to think about it myself, and I'd like to know the truth."

    Regarding the possibility of his brother being charged in the disappearance, Cook said, "I'm prepared either way."

    Copyright © 2019, Orlando Sentinel

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