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Man Averts Fourth Murder Trial

February 16, 1999

BASTROP, Texas (AP) _ A man who was tried three times in the 1977 slaying of a woman and was awaiting his fourth murder trial pleaded no contest Tuesday and will not have to go back to prison.

Kerry Max Cook, 42, was sentenced to 20 years in prison with credit for time already served.

Cook plea came as jury selection was about to get under way in his fourth trial in the slaying of Linda Jo Edwards.

Just recently, semen that had been overlooked for 22 years was discovered in Ms. Edwards’ underwear. The semen was undergoing testing to determine if it could yield DNA evidence.

Prosecutors said Cook beat the 21-year-old Ms. Edwards in the head with a plaster statue, stabbed her and sexually mutilated her in her apartment. His fingerprints were found on her sliding glass door.

Cook was has convicted of the killing twice, but both verdicts were thrown out on appeal. Cook has spent nearly half his life behind bars for this case, mostly on death row. He has been free since 1997.

In a statement, Cook insisted he did not kill Ms. Edwards but decided to plead no contest ``because I have already lost 22 years of my life.″

``I have been victimized by police and prosecutorial wrongdoing,″ he said. ``It was time for me to end this nightmare to try to regain at least some of my life for my family, friends and loved ones as well as myself.″

Prosecutors said they made the deal because they couldn’t get around previous prosecutorial misconduct that has dogged the case.

``For the family, the finality of a legal decision was important,″ prosecutor David Dobbs said. ``I’m sure we had the right guy.″

Cook was sentenced to died in 1978 and spent 13 years on death row until an appeals court threw out the conviction because a psychiatrist who testified at trial didn’t tell Cook their conversation could be used against him.

A 1992 retrial ended with a hung jury. In 1994 he was again convicted and sentenced to death. An appeals court overturned that verdict in 1996, citing prosecutorial misconduct.

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