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Ex-pastor goes on trial for molesting daughter


Ex-pastor goes on trial for molesting daughter

Posted: Tuesday, February 13, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A former Baptist minister who took care of ten children is on trial this week on charges of sexually molesting a teen-age daughter. Prosecutors say she wasn't the only victim in the family.

Richard Cook moved to Ruby in 1996 with his wife and ten children, nine of them adopted or foster children.

Cook, 48, faces 12 charges, including five counts of first-degree and six counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of first-degree indecent exposure. Though prosecutors intend to argue that Cook abused three of his daughters, the charges involve only one.

The allegations first arose in April 1998, when Alaska State Troopers interviewed the adopted daughter, then 14, after she had attempted suicide. According to the trooper report, she told them Cook had been subjecting her to a variety of sexual contact beginning in October 1997.

Prosecutor Teresa Foster said in her opening statement that Cook was a habitual child molester who had abused the girl as well as two of his other daughters and made them all keep quiet about it.

The alleged victim ''is the last, but not the only, child that Richard Cook abused physically or sexually,'' Foster stated. ''To all intents and purposes this was an amazing family,'' she noted, ''but behind closed doors it was a nightmare of physical and sexual abuse.''

Foster said physical abuse, including hitting the children with boards, was a regular occurrence in the Cook home. She said Cook used threats of violence and physical harm, as well as warnings about breaking up the family, to keep his daughters quiet about the sexual abuse.

Foster noted that the family did break up shortly after Cook's arrest. Mary Cook left the state and has not been seen in Alaska for more than a year. The Cook children below the age of 18 were returned to the South Dakota Department of Social Services, and the children of legal age now reside in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Ruby.

Defense lawyer Robert Noreen told jurors to consider the motivations of the witnesses before judging his client. He argued that the difficult backgrounds of the Cook children could color their testimony.

''These children destroyed the Cook household,'' he said.

Cook fled Alaska for Canada three months after his arrest and release on bail. He was ultimately found living under an alias and was extradited to Alaska last October.

2001 Feb 13