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DEATH OF SAM COOKE: An Introduction

"I was in Los Angeles with Sam Cooke the night he was shot. We were out at that club together ... Later
that night at my hotel, my friend calls and tells me Sam's been shot. I thought he was joking. 'Sam wasn't
shot, man. I just left him.' It was no joke. Sam's death was devastating. He meant so much to me. He
meant a lot to all of us. He represented the next level for us. He opened doors that haven't been stepped
through since. He was gonna be the next Nat Cole. He was a dear friend, and now he was gone. I had to
get on the train to get on a plane to get back to Sam's funeral in Chicago. I had no sleep, and I couldn't
get Sam off my mind. There's the song. I wrote 'Got To Get You Off My Mind' to get Sam Cooke off my
-- Solomon Burke

Sam Cooke should not have died at age 33.

What's more, he should not have died the way that he did -- gunned down in a cut-rate motel in a
bizarre sequence of events that defies logic.

Sam died on December 11, 1964. Over 40 years later, his fans still talk of cover-ups and conspiracies.
In large part, that's because the "official" explanation of how Sam died requires us to believe that one
of the greatest talents in music history could be taken from us through an unforeseeable combination
of happenstance, misunderstandings and just plain bad luck.

Intellectually, we may know that death -- and life, for that matter -- doesn't always make sense. But
emotionally, we need to see some sort of purpose to everything, particularly when it comes to tragic
events such as the death of Sam Cooke.

That's one reason people still are searching for answers about what happened in that motel 42 years
ago: As the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King demonstrated, it's impossible for many
people to accept the fact that a towering giant of history, a person who has transformed the lives of
millions, could be quickly and recklessly taken from us by a lone dullard with a gun. It's easier to
believe that vast conspiracies and unstoppable forces are at work. To believe otherwise is to believe
that one deranged man with a mail-order rifle can rewrite history, and that the goodwill of millions
cannot thwart the evil intentions of a single individual.

And that's why some people -- including more than one author -- have argued that John Lennon was
killed as the result of a secret conspiracy. (Never mind that the shooting was witnessed by many
others and the accused killer readily confessed.) There even are those who see conspiracies in the car
crash that killed Princess Diana. Apparently, a conspiracy is easier to accept than the mundane reality
of a commonplace incident of drunken driving.

Of course, conspiracy theories tend to be more credible when the "official explanations" of a death
defy logic and reason. And, clearly, the official version of how Sam died falls squarely into that
category. Explanations are supposed to clarify matters, not add to our confusion by offering up a
series of conflicting "facts" and theories.

Source 1: Motel Shooting Kills Singer Sam Cooke

Excerpt from an article published in the Milwaukee Sentinel on December 12,

Singing star Sam Cooke was shot to death early Friday by a motel manager after he burst into her
apartment in pursuit of a girl he had met in a bar.

Cooke, 32, whose latest hit record, Cousin of Mine, boosted his total sales past 10 million, was clad
in only a topcoat [dresscoat].

Lisa [Elisa] Boyer, 22, told police that Cooke kidnapped her after she accepted an offer of a ride from
a bar. He forced her to go to the motel, she said, and she grabbed most of his clothes and fled when he
went to the bathroom.

The motel manager, Mrs. Bertha Lee Franklin, 55, said Cooke kicked in her door, accused her of
harboring Miss Boyer and struck her twice with his fist. She fired three shots. One hit Cooke in the

The girl was found in a nearby telephone booth after the shooting.

Mrs. Franklin was not held. Cookes wife, Barbara, 29, was hysterical when police went to his home in
Hollywood. With her were two small children. A third child, Tracy, 18 months, drowned in the
swimming pool at their home last June.

Source: Milwaukee Sentinel, December 12, 1964.

SOURCE 3: The Mysterious Death of Sam Cooke

Excerpt from an article written by Bill DeMain, published on in

May of 2006.

Los Angeles, December 10, 1964, 9 p.m. Everybody in Martonis Italian restaurant had their eye on
Sam Cooke. He was having dinner with producer Al Schmitt and Schmitts wife, Joan. Well-wishers
kept stopping by the table, interrupting their conversation. Sam, whod already had three or four
martinis, eventually got pulled away to the bar.

When their orders arrived, Al Schmitt went to get Sam and found him laughing it up with a group of
friends and music business associates. Sam was buying, and he flashed a wad of bills, what looked
like thousands of dollars. He told Al that he and his wife should go ahead with their meal.

At a booth near the bar, there was a baby-faced 22-year-old Asian girl, sitting with three guys. Sam
caught her eye. Hed seen her around. One of the guys, a guitar player Sam knew, introduced them.
The girls name was Elisa Boyer. Before long, the pair were cozied up in a booth.

They left Martonis around 1 a.m. in Sams brand new red Ferrari and headed to a nightclub called
PJs, where they were going to meet the Schmitts. By the time they arrived, the Schmitts were gone. In
the club, Sam got into a heated argument with some guy who was hitting on Boyer. She asked Sam to
take her home, and they left at 2 a.m.

According to Boyer, Sam raced down Santa Monica, and against her protests, pulled onto the freeway.
She later told police that she asked again to be taken home, but Sam said, Dont worry now. I just
want to go for a little ride. He stroked her hair and told her how pretty she was.

They exited the highway at Figueroa Street, near LAX [Los Angeles Airport]. Boyer asked again to be
taken home, but Sam drove straight to the Hacienda Motel. He got out of the car and walked up to a
glass partition at the managers office while Boyer remained in the car. He registered under his own
name with the clerk, Bertha Franklin. Franklin eyed Boyer in the car, and told Sam that hed have to
sign in as Mr. and Mrs.

Sam drove around to the back of the motel. Boyer claimed he then dragged her into the room, pinned
her on the bed and started to tear her clothes off. I knew he was going to rape me, she told the
police. She went into the bathroom and tried to lock the door, but the latch was broken. She tried the
window but it was painted shut. When she came out, Sam was already undressed. He groped her,
then went into the bathroom himself. Boyer, wearing a slip and a bra, picked up her clothes and fled.

The first thing she said she did was pound on the night managers door. Franklin didnt answer.
Boyer ran half a block, dumped her clothes on the ground and got dressed. Tangled among her
clothes were Sams shirt and pants. She left them on the ground, found a phone booth and called the

Meanwhile, Sam, wearing one shoe and a sports jacket, had come out of the room, frantically looking
for Boyer. He drove the Ferrari back to the managers office, and banged on the door of Franklins
office. Is the girl in there? he yelled. According to Franklin, when she said no, Sam began to work at
the locked door and ram it with his shoulder. The frame ripped loose and the latch gave. Sam charged
in, looking around for Boyer. He grabbed Franklins wrist. Where is the girl? They got into a tussle.

Franklin, though shorter than Sam, outweighed him by about 30 pounds. She told the police, He fell
on top of me I tried to bite him through that jacket: biting, scratching and everything. Finally, I got
up, when I kicked him I run and grabbed the pistol off the TV, and I shot at close range three

Two of the bullets missed. But the third entered his left side, passed through his left lung, his heart
and his right lung. Sam fell back and in astonishment, said what would be his last words: Lady, you
shot me.

Franklin claims that he got up again and ran at her. She hit him over the head with a broom handle.
This time, he stayed down. When the police arrived, Sam Cooke was dead.

Five days later, at the coroners inquest, Boyer and Franklin recounted their stories in a hasty
proceeding that barely allowed Sams lawyer one question. Tests showed that at the time of death,
Sam had a blood alcohol level of .16 (.08 is considered too drunk to drive). Sams credit cards were
missing, but a money clip with $108 was in his jacket pocket. The shooting was ruled justifiable
homicide. Case closed.

Source: Performing Songwriter

Source 2: A Star is Dead

Excerpt from a article written by David Krajicek, published on CrimeLibrary.

Evelyn Carr, the motel owner, was an earwitness to the shooting. She listened in as Franklin
put down the phone and went to the door to deal with the drunken man.

After hearing the shots, Carr hung up and phoned police at about 3:15 a.m. "I think she shot
him," Carr said.

Seven minutes earlier, police had
received a call from Elisa Boyer from
a phone booth a block from the
motel. Boyer reported she had been

She said she escaped in her
underwear and stopped in a stairwell
to dress.

Police cars, with sirens wailing, raced
to the scene, and officers found Sam
Cooke dead. His Ferrari was still
sitting outside the office, the driver's
door open and the engine running.

A few minutes after police arrived,
Elisa Boyer walked up and presented
herself as the victim of the dead

Police found a bottle of Scotch in the
Ferrari. They also inventoried
Cooke's property: a wristwatch, a
money clip with $108, and some
loose change.
Police officers approach the dead body o f singer

Sam Cooke.
A thin wallet in which Cooke carried
credit cards and his driver's license was
never found. Witnesses at Martoni's said he had a wad of perhaps $1,000. Police found no
wad just the bills neatly folded in the money clip.

They searched Boyer's purse but found only a single $20 bill.

Source: TruTV

SOURCE 4: Interview with Erik Greene III, Nephew of Sam Cooke.

Excerpt from an interview with Erick Greene III, nephew of Sam Cooke, in the late 1990s.

Since December of 1964, the sketchy facts surrounding Sam Cooke's death have been a topic of
discussion by fans worldwide. Some see him as "being in the wrong place at the wrong time," or "a
victim of his lifestyle catching up with him," or any one of a number of open-and-shut explanations.
Some hint at a conspiracy to make an example out of an outspoken black entrepreneur. Others have
insisted the hit was mob-related.

CL: And what does the family believe?

Greene: Since Sam's untimely death, the Cook family has commonly held the belief that the whole
scenario was a set-up. They immediately dismissed the "facts" as presented because they knew
certain things about his nature: Sam would never have to force himself on a womanany woman.
While he was known to have his trysts, he would routinely turn down dozens of propositions from
women who threw themselves at him. The family knew the actions as described weren't in Sam's
nature. Sam always did everything first class. As a successful entertainer and businessman, his
clothes were tailor-made and he drove the finest cars (he was sporting a new, 1965 Ferrari the night
of his murder). The thought of him checking into a $3-a-night motel would be laughable if the
situation weren't so gravely serious.

The fact that Sam was portrayed as an over-sexed potential rapist deeply disturbed those that knew
him best. Not only was this far from the truth, it was the kind of accusation that was almost
impossible to disprove. On the other hand, a black entertainer taking advantage of a defenseless, star-
struck Eurasian girl was much more plausible [believable] in the public's eyes, especially if it's been
reported alcohol was involved. But just how innocent was the victim?

The question of Elisa Boyer's character and occupation was quickly suppressed [hidden] by the
coroner in the inquest, and the fact that she was indeed a prostitute didn't come out until she was
arrested in a LAPD sting operation a month later. Had the question been allowed, it would've made
inquiring minds ask, "Why would a well-known entertainer with a pocket full of money attempt to
rape a prostitute?" These inconsistencies, as well as others, are discussed in detail in Our Uncle Sam.

CL: What is your family's perspective on the events of the night that Sam Cooke was killed?

Greene: Personal feelings from the family aside, Sam's shooting didn't make sense from several
common-sense angles. First of all, why would Sam to drive that far out of his way (and Boyer's, for
that matter) to go to the seedy Hacienda Motel, especially since he would've had to pass several
quality motels in order to do so? In the coroner's inquest, Boyer claimed she was held against her
will, yet Sam allegedly left her in the car alone as he checked into the motel. During questioning, she
testified she asked Sam if she could go to the bathroom as he was ripping off her clothes, and he
stopped assaulting her so she could take a bathroom break. When she was done, he left her alone
again and used the bathroom himself finally giving her the opportunity to escape!

Bertha Franklin (the motel attendant) testified that Sam broke down her door, searched her
apartment, and then came back into the living room demanding to know where Boyer went. Franklin
claimed Sam twisted her arm and pinned her down on the floor, demanding to know more
information, yet she managed to escape the hold an interesting scenario that was never
questioned. During their tussle, she grabbed her gun from atop the television and shot Sam. Why
hadn't Franklin remembered her gun when he was trying to break down the door? Why didn't she go
for the gun while Sam was searching the apartment?

Source 5: Three Versions of the Tale

The following sources are excerpts from a blog published through the Toronto Sun newspaper,
written by Toronto Sun editor Alan Parker.

Ill give you three versions [of what happened the night Sam Cooke was killed]: 1. What we know for
sure (sort of), 2. The version that came out in court, and 3. The conspiracy theory

1: What we know for sure (sort of)
Sam Cooke and Elisa Boyer, in Sams expensive Ferrari, pulled up to the Hacienda Motel in South-
Central LA, a seedy flop joint in a seedy part of town. They checked in to the Hacienda as Mr. and
Mrs. Sam Cooke. (By the way, the Hacienda is still in business but its now known as the Star Motel.)

Within an hour Sam Cooke naked except for a jacket and one shoe was pounding on the motel
reception desk, demanding to know where Elisa Boyer was. She had stolen his clothes and wallet
(containing thousands of dollars this was before credit cards were in common use) while he was
in the bathroom, Cooke said, and he accused the motel manager, 55-year-old Bertha Franklin, of

An argument broke out, there was a physical altercation of some kind and Franklin (or someone)
pulled a gun and shot the King of Soul in the abdomen.

You shot me, lady, Sam Cooke said. Then he dropped dead

2. The version that came out in court
At the inquest (not even a criminal trial), Elisa Boyer testified that she thought Sam Cooke was
driving her home and she became frightened as he took her to the Hacienda Motel and became more
aggressive, ripping her clothes off.

While Cooke was in the bathroom, Boyer said she grabbed her clothes and fled what she was sure
would become a rape. Boyer testified that she had taken Cookes clothes (and wallet) by mistake
while gathering up her own clothes.

She ran from the motel, put her own clothes on and (she said) threw away Cookes clothing (and
wallet). She later phoned police to report the supposed rape attempt, but Sam Cooke was already
dead by then.

Motel manager Bertha Franklin testified Cooke was half-naked and in a rage when he confronted her
in the reception area after Boyer had run off.

Franklin said Cooke yelled at her and tussled with her before going out to the parking lot and starting
his car. The he returned to the reception area, Franklin testified, and started fighting with her again,
knocking her to the ground.

Franklin said she managed to get her gun from beneath the reception counter and shot Cooke as he
was advancing on her again in a threatening manner.
After less than half an hour, the inquest jury ruled Sam Cookes death was justifiable homicide and
closed the case.

3. The Conspiracy Theory

This is a conspiracy theory in that it presupposes a group of people acted in concert to cause the
criminal death of Sam Cooke. In reality, its a fairly logical deduction of how an organized robbery
went wrong.

There is no question that Elisa Boyer was a hooker. She was arrested on unrelated prostitution
charges within weeks of Sam Cookes death.

It is almost certain that Boyer directed Cooke to the Hacienda Motel where she had a working
relationship with Franklin.

At the first opportunity when Sam went to pee Boyer took off with his wallet (the primary
objective) and Sams clothes (to prevent him following her, probably).

After Sams death, his clothes and wallet were found but the thousands of dollars in his wallet
were long gone.

Sam very quickly realized he had been set up and led into a trap, which is why he was so certain that
Franklin was part of the scam: She had to know what the deal was and she was his only link to the
now-disappeared Boyer and his wallet.

But in an organized prostitution ring like this, Franklin would have muscle in the back room to keep
rowdy and/or fleeced johns in line.

So Sam Cooke was in an altercation[fight / confrontation] in the Hacienda Motel but based on
the injuries Cooke sustained it is very unlikely he was fighting with a small, frail woman like
Bertha Franklin.

In her autobiography, blues diva Etta James recounted seeing Sam Cookes body as it lay in an open
casket before burial.

Sam was badly beaten, Etta James wrote, his head was almost separated from his right shoulder, his
face was smashed in and his hands were crushed.

Those are not the injuries that would be sustained in a tussle with a small, 55-year-old woman. That
was a terrible beating laid by one or more thugs on a man fighting for his life. The killer gunshot may
have come during that fight or it may have been a coup de grace after the thugs realized the damage
they had done and decided to kill the only witness to their crimes.

The rest is, as they say, history and coverup.


The Hacienda Motel, the site of Sam Cookes death.

Police officers approach the dead body of singer Sam Cooke.