JOPLIN, Mo. — It was 1950, a time of hope and prosperity in our nation, but one man would change all of that for the city of Joplin.
“In late 1950, Joplin and the entire nation was shocked by a crime of barbaric proportions,” said Bob Phillips, KODE Anchor/Reporter (Archive).
That was legendary KODE Anchor-Reporter Bob Phillips, taking a look back at Billy Cook.
“His perception was certainly that he hated everybody and everybody hated him,” said Dr. Denna Clymer, Chair, Social Science Division, Crowder College.
After a rough childhood, where his mother passed away when he was five and his father abandoned him and his siblings to live in a mine shaft in Joplin, Billy’s story picks up in the late 1940’s, when he’s leaving prison after a string of petty crimes and an assault when he was younger.
He returned to Joplin, where he tracked down his father.
“They seem to have had a few cordial days together. They met, they talked, and Billy tells his dad that he was going to go west and he was going to live by the gun,” said Clymer.
Billy did go west, but we don’t know what happened while he was there.
It was in Claremore, Oklahoma, when he met the Mosser family, that Billy’s story becomes national news.
“Illinois farmer Carl Mosser, on a pleasure trip with his wife and three children ran into Billy near Claremore, Oklahoma, and after forcing Mosser to drive him back to Joplin, Cook killed the entire family and threw their bodies down an abandoned mineshaft in the northwest part of the city. Ten days later the bodies were discovered by Joplin chief of detectives Carl Nut,” said Bob Phillips, KODE Anchor/Reporter (Archive).
“Carl Mosser was a man about my size he’d been shot twice, in the chest and once in the ear and it came out right over the temple. And his little son, seven years old, was shot the same way,” said Carl Nutt, JPD Chief of Detectives (Archive).
“It was front-page news from the west coast to the east coast. People were really interested in the deaths of this family, partly because it was just incredibly heinous,” said Clymer.
From there, wanted posters went up across the United States.
Cook would end up killing another man in California, before fleeing to south of the border.
He was recognized there by a local police officer and returned to the United States.
In Missouri, he was tried by federal prosecutors for the deaths of the Mosser family.
In a controversial decision, the judge said he couldn’t sentence Billy to death, due to the circumstances of his childhood.
However, a California trial would end differently.
“Billy was caught in Mexico after killing another man from Seattle, was tried and convicted of murder, and executed in San Quentin prison on December 12, 1952. ‘Bad Man Billy,’ as he was called, was buried in an unmarked grave by the light of lanterns and flashlights on the night of December 16th here in Peace Cemetery, north of the city he called home,” said Bob Phillips, KODE Anchor/Reporter (Archive).