On this day, 11th December 1964 Sam Cooke, the popular R&B singer was shot dead and later a verdict of justifiable homicide was recorded. He was shot dead by Berth Franklin who was working late night reception at a $3 an hour hotel frequented by prostitutes. He was shot after attacking Franklin who feared for hear life. He had attacked Franklin when looking the woman he had attempted to rape. Does not read right, does it? But that is the official version.
Here what is known and a bit of what is speculated. Cooke ways having dinner at a LA restaurant Martoni’s with producer Al Schmitt and his wife. While there Cooke picked up a woman called Eliza Boyer . He agreed to meet Schmitt later at a club called PJ’s. When they arrived there in the early hours the Schmitts had left. Cooke and Boyer carried on partying.
Later he drove her to a motel in his new Ferrari. Two points, why did he drive 18 miles, past other, better hotels to a hotel known to be used by hookers ? Second, if he was intent on rape why take her to somewhere where he would have to register?
He signed the register as Mr & Mrs Cooke. If he was going attack her why use his real name? Anyway the new Ferrari would have been easy to trace, safer to use a different car.
If Eliza was scared, as she said, why not run off when he left her alone in the car to register.
She said that he attacked her in the hotel room, but stopped to allow her to use the bathroom. He then used the bathroom himself. That does not sound like a frenzied attack by someone who was out of control.
While he was having a pee she grabs her clothes, and most of his and runs from the room to the reception. Bertha Franklin, does not answer and runs off into the night later dropping his clothes, getting dressed and calling police.
Meanwhile, he finds his clothes,apart from one shoe and his jacket are gone. He runs to the reception, breaks the door down and attacks Franklin.
She shoots him, he keeps coming at her to. She hits him over the head with a broom handle. He falls down and is dead before the police arrive .
Some more points.
He had a large amount of cash on him earlier in the hotel evening, thousands of dollars. He was going to buy Christmas presents the next day. The police found $107 on him.
Witnesses heard 3 shots, Franklin said that she hit him with the first one. There was only evidence of cash2 being fired in reception. The autopsy said the wound, the result of the first shot, would have killed him, instantly.
The wound on his head was the result of him being hit with a large blunt instrument, not a broom handle.
Franklin had been involved in another shooting at the same hotel only 6 months earlier.
The bullet that killed him entered between the 3rd and 4th rib hitting neither but hitting his heart either a very good she or a very lucky one.
Cooke had renegotiated his RCA contract getting ownership of his master tapes and royalties. That had not made him any friends.
He was close to Malcolm X. That would not make him popular with X’s old friends (we know what happened to Malcolm X).
Cooke was involved in the civil rights movement. Again that had made him enemies.
Is the verdict open to question? Oh yes.