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1960s / Death of Sam Cooke - 1964
Popular singer Sam Cooke is best remembered for his million-selling 1957 hit You Send Me. The married Cooke was something of a serial philanderer and died a rather unseemly death at age 33 on December 11, 1964, at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles from a fatal gunshot wound to the torso. The motel's manager, Bertha Franklin, said she shot Cooke in self-defense after he broke into her office and attacked her. However, the details of the case are still in dispute. Cooke's body was found in Franklin's apartment-office, clad only in a sports jacket and shoes, but no shirt, pants or underwear. The official police record states that Franklin fatally shot Cooke who had checked in earlier that evening with a young woman. Franklin claimed that Cooke had broken into the manager's office-apartment in a rage, wearing nothing but a shoe and a sports coat demanding to know the whereabouts of the woman who had accompanied him to the hotel only a few minutes earlier. Franklin told Cooke the woman was not in the office, but the enraged Cooke did not believe her. He violently grabbed her, demanding again to know the woman's whereabouts. According to Franklin, she grappled with Cooke and the two of them fell to the floor. She got up and ran to retrieve her gun. She said she then fired at Cooke in self-defense because she feared for her life. Cooke was struck once in the torso, and according to Franklin, he exclaimed, "Lady, you shot me!" before mounting a last charge at her. She said that she beat him over his head with a broomstick before he finally fell. He was mortally wounded by the gunshot. Franklin noted she fired the gun at least three times. Franklin and the motel's owner, Evelyn Carr, had been speaking on the telephone together at the time of the incident. Thus, Carr claimed to have overheard Cooke's intrusion and the ensuing conflict and gunshots. Carr called the police to request they go to the motel, as she believed a shooting had occurred. A coroner investigated the incident. The woman who had accompanied Cooke to the motel was identified as Elisa Boyer, who had also called the police that night shortly before Carr. Boyer had called police from a telephone booth near the motel, telling them she had just escaped being kidnapped. Boyer told police that she had met Cooke earlier that night and had spent the evening in his company. She claimed that after they left a local nightclub together, she had repeatedly requested that he take her home, but he instead took her against her will to the Hacienda Motel. She claimed that once they had rented one of the motel's $3 rooms, Cooke physically forced her onto the bed and that she was certain he was going to rape her. According to Boyer, when Cooke stepped into the bathroom for a moment, she quickly grabbed her clothes and ran from the room. She claimed that in her haste, she had also scooped up most of Cooke's clothing by mistake. She said that she ran first to the manager's office and knocked on the door seeking help. However, she said the manager took too long in responding, so, fearing Cooke would soon be coming after her, she fled the motel before the manager opened the door. She claimed she put her own clothing back on, hid Cooke's clothing, and went to the telephone booth where she called police. Boyer's story is the only account of what happened between the two that night; however, her story has long been called into question. Inconsistencies between her version of events and details reported by other witnesses, as well as circumstantial evidence (e.g., thousands in cash that Cooke was reportedly carrying were never recovered, and Boyer was soon after arrested for prostitution), invited speculation that Boyer may have gone willingly to the motel with Cooke, then slipped out of the room with Cooke's clothing in order to rob him, rather than to escape an attempted rape.