Police: car jacking victim died, suspect now faces murder charge

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Days after being attacked during a car jacking, Lexington Police say an 82-year-old man has died, and now the suspect is being charged with murder.

"I hate that, that old man died," said Helen Caywood, a clerk at the PDQ Market, where the car jacking happened on August 1st.

Caywood learned of the man's death on Tuesday and was having trouble with the news. The coroner said that 82-year-old Donald "Leroy" Cooke died from his injuries over the weekend. Caywood didn't know Cooke, yet she'll never forget him.

"I said, 'We'll call you an ambulance,' he said, 'I don't want to go to the hospital I've got my dog,'" recalled the clerk. "That dog was sitting down beside him, out there, licking him on the face."

While some time has passed, Caywood says she hasn't forgotten about Cooke or that day.

"I was just wondering about him today, wondering if he was still living. It's very hard to hear, because he reminded me of my father. It's just cruel, you know, for anybody to do something like that to an old person."

Police say Cooke was forced out of his car by Joel Searcy, who they say admitted forcing Cooke to drive him to the market from Broadway and Loudon. Investigators say they also learned that Searcy was involved in an accident involving a woman and her four children. The woman claimed she was being held against her will. WKYT later learned she and Searcy know each other because she's a friend of Searcy's mother.

"Well, I can remember seeing the car parked out front and this guy jumping in there, but I didn't see him push the man out," said Caywood.

Other witnesses, however, did see the man on the ground and they started to chase after Searcy, later catching and holding him until police arrived. When the witnesses started to chase down Searcy, that's when Caywood got worried.

"I told Mike, 'He's done something bad because he's acting strange.' Sure enough he did do something wrong."

When Caywood found the 82-year-old victim on the ground outside her store, she said her heart broke.

"Poor fellow, I felt so sorry for him," adding "He kept rubbing down here (on his leg) like it might have been his hip (hurting)."

The clerk still has a hard time knowing it all went down just feet from her counter, and has an even harder time forgiving Searcy for what he did.

"He's going to pay for it."

Funeral arrangements for Cooke are still pending.

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