Produced by Patti Aronofsky and Jonathan Leach
[This story previously aired on June 6, 2015 It was updated on Dec. 31, 2016.]
It was just after 8:30 a.m. on June 28, 2011, when a frantic sounding Linda Cooney was on the phone with Las Vegas Police:
Linda Cooney (Heavy breathing): My son -- my son has a gunshot wound to the neck ... Kevin ... Kevin are you alright?
911 Operator: ...and how did he get this wound?
Linda Cooney: Please send someone...
911 Operator: How did he get this wound?
Linda Cooney: With -- with her handgun...
911 Operator: Did somebody else -- shoot him, or did he do it himself? Hello? Hello? Hello?
Her 30-year-old son, Kevin, lay on the floor in a pool of blood.
“She didn’t say that he had done it, she didn’t say that she had done it. She didn’t say that somebody else had done it,” said Las Vegas Detective Robert Schmidt.
When Det. Schmidt and Det. Lance Landholm of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department arrived, they said there were “guns all over the house” and “ammunition all over the floor.”
“We had really no clue to what we had,” said Schmidt.
And it was hard to get anything much out of Linda, a 63-year-old former Palm Beach aspiring socialite.
“She looked like a deer in a headlight,” said Det. Landholm.
Detectives made a recording as they interrogated Linda on the scene:
Det. Schmidt: Miss Cooney, are you aware that this is being tape recorded?
Linda Cooney: Yes, sir.
Det. Schmidt: Do you know how he got shot?”
Linda Cooney: No.
Det. Schmidt: Did you shoot Kevin?
Linda Cooney: No...
Det. Schmidt: How in the world did your son get shot when only you two were in the house?
Linda Cooney: I don’t know.
Det. Schmidt: You don’t know, or you don’t wanna know?
Before being rushed to the hospital, Kevin told an officer that the shooting was an accident. But that’s not what detectives were hearing now:
Det. Schmidt: Has he tried to hurt himself in the past? Has he ever tried to commit suicide in the past?
Linda Cooney: Never went through with it.
Det. Schmidt: OK, has he talked about it?
Linda Cooney: Yes ...
The 11-year-old boy whose testimony once saved his mother from a murder conviction had grown up, according to Linda, into a troubled man. When he wasn’t threatening to take his own life, she said he was threatening to take hers. And Linda said at 1 a.m. on June 28, 2011, Kevin attacked her.
“She told us he came around from a corner, he grabbed me, he threw me down,” said Schmidt.
And she showed them a bruise on her chest to prove it:
Linda Cooney: He said he wished I was dead.
She said they were arguing about Kevin’s girlfriend, Karina Taylor:
Linda Cooney: She’s an absolute psycho and she will not leave Kevin alone and Kevin is emotionally unstable as it is.
Linda told police when the fight was all over, she went to sleep and later that morning she discovered Kevin laying on the living room floor:
Linda Cooney: I did not hear a gun shot, that’s the bizarre thing. I did not hear a gunshot.
“She seemed like a person who was trying to cover up what had happened,” said Landholm.
Det. Schmidt to Linda: Either Kevin hurt himself, or you shot him -- and that’s what we’re here trying to figure out.
There was no one else to ask. Kevin was now unconscious, so detectives turned their attention to the best piece of evidence they had: that .357 Magnum.
To their astonishment, the gun that was used to shoot Kevin was the same gun Linda used to shoot and kill his father, Jim, nearly 20 years earlier in Palm Beach, Florida.
“The serial numbers were an exact match,” said Landholm.
Las Vegas prosecutors Shanon Clowers and Michael Staudaher couldn’t imagine why, after Linda Cooney was acquitted of killing her ex-husband, she wanted her gun back.
“Was that surprising to you?” Schlesinger asked Clowers.
“It ... It shocked me to no end,” she replied.
“You would think that that situation would be so traumatic for you that you would never want to see that weapon again,” Clowers continued.
The detectives needed to know everything about what happened in Palm Beach to Linda’s ex-husband.
“There was only one person in this world who would shoot Jim and it was Linda,” said Bob Cooney, Jim’s younger brother.
Bob said he never cared for Linda. Jim was the eldest of eight kids in a prominent Palm Beach family. He grew up to be a well-liked attorney. Linda was new to Palm Beach. A mid-westerner, her family had a farm in Wisconsin.
“Linda Cooney was an outsider whose goal in moving to South Florida was climb the social ladder and with Jim Cooney, she got a way to do that,” said Jose Lambiet, a gossip columnist in Palm Beach.
Jim and Linda met at a party in Palm Beach.
“Its champagne, caviar, you name it,” said Lambiet.
Bob said he worried, especially when he heard rumors of what this beautiful young woman did at her job. She was a legal secretary.
“One of her roles at that law firm was to help entertain clients,” said Bob.
“As a gentleman, may I assume ‘entertain’ was in quotes,” Schlesinger asked, signaling with air quotes.
“Yes,” Bob replied.
Jim ran off and married Linda and they had two boys -- Kevin and Christopher. But the marriage was not working.
“If you talked to Linda, she’ll tell you she considered herself to be an abused wife,” said Lambiet.
Linda filed a police report claiming Jim assaulted her. He filed for divorce.
“She was a scary woman,” said Bob.
But even after the case was settled, the fighting continued.
“That divorce was literally her worst-case scenario,” said Lambiet.
Linda wanted more money. Jim, his family said, wanted more time with his kids.
“He would go to pick up the kids for his weekend and they would not be there... but if Jim would give her some money, they might appear,” said Bob.
“How much would she demand, to see the kids?” Schlesinger asked.
“Jim told me it was usually about $500,” he replied.
Then on Feb. 7, 1992, Jim arrived at Linda’s house with a court order demanding she hand over Kevin and Christopher for a weekend visit.
Linda Cooney [to 911] : I shot at him. I don’t know if I got him or not.
That was the last day of Jim Cooney’s life.
“He was laying on his back, deceased from multiple gunshot wounds. In his right hand he was holding a kitchen knife,” said Palm Beach Lieutenant Scott Smith, who was the lead detective on the case.
Linda Cooney claimed Jim was coming at her with that knife and she shot him in self-defense, but Lt. Smith was skeptical.
“She had no marks, no scrapes, no nothing,” he said.
Linda was arrested and charged with first-degree murder
“Our main witness was Kevin Cooney,” said Smith.
Little Kevin Cooney saw his mother shoot his father. He was called to testify, and took the stand holding an action figure:
Kevin Cooney: “Yes, it sounded loud.
Prosecutor: ... and your ears were ringing?
Kevin Cooney: Yes.
Kevin told police his 8-year-old brother, Christopher, was hiding in the closet while he was peeking out from a hole in his bedroom door:
“I got really frightened and nervous and scared,” Kevin testified.
He could see something in his father’s hand before the shooting, but he wasn’t sure it was a knife.
“He said... it could have been a key, it could have been a knife, he didn’t know,” said Smith.
But he did know for certain that after the shooting, his father’s hand was empty.
“Something just didn’t seem right,” said Smith.
Police think Linda planted a knife in Jim’s hand after she killed him to make it look like he was attacking her. With Jim dead, she’d have the kids all to herself.
“The children were her lifeline,” said Smith.
“The kids were the key to the riches of the Cooney’s,” noted Schlesinger.
The boys were beneficiaries of Jim Cooney’s million-dollar life insurance policy
But it was the timing of a very dramatic 911 call that may be the most damning evidence:
“He tried to kill me...Please, He’s got a knife,” she told 911.
Before Linda spoke to 911, she tried to call her friend -- a lawyer.
“What do you make of that?” Schlesinger asked Smith.
“Strange,” he replied.
And police say even before she was arrested, Linda began convincing Kevin that he saw that knife in his father’s hand.
“I think she had planted something in his head ... and... he knew he saw something,” said Smith.
Prosecutor: You saw something in your dad’s right hand?” Kevin Cooney: Yes Prosecutor: Was it dark or shiny?
Kevin Cooney: It had a glary shine.
While Kevin never testified that he actually saw his father wielding a knife, the implication was enough.
“I think we lost the case at that point in time,” said Smith.
It took the jury just hours to determine Linda Cooney was not guilty of murder.
“Kevin’s testimony exonerated his mother,” Lambiet told Schlesinger.
Linda Cooney gave only one-sit down television interview. It was to the tabloid program, “Hard Copy”:
Interviewer: Is Linda Cooney a murderer?
Linda Cooney: No, no I’m not, definitely not. Interviewer: What are you? Linda Cooney: I’m a mother who defended herself and her children.
But not everyone in Palm Beach saw it that way.
“She was always considered a murderer. She knew she had to start over,” said Lambiet.
So Linda packed up the boys and moved to Las Vegas.
“She understood that you can move into Vegas and nobody’s asking questions,” said Lambiet.
And no asked questions until police arrived at her home and discovered her son was the latest victim of that .357 Magnum -- the same gun that was used to kill his father.
WHO SHOT KEVIN COONEY?
After he was shot in the neck, Kevin Cooney lay partially paralyzed and unconscious. No one could explain how he got shot -- not even his mother.
“Somebody has to tell the truth and Linda Cooney wasn’t doing that,” said Prosecutor Shanon Clowers.
Three days later, Kevin woke up and told a story most people did not expect.
“When he wakes up ... the first conscious words ...are, ‘No mom. I’m afraid of mom. Mom shot me,’” said Prosecutor Michael Staudaher.
Kevin was no longer saying it was an accident. And prosecutors said he repeated that statement -- that his own mother shot him -- to several nurses.
“He was very anxious and appeared to be scared,” said Clowers.
That did not surprise Kevin’s girlfriend, Karina Taylor.
“I’ve lived in fear of this woman for a very long time,” she said.
Taylor began dating Kevin in 2011. She was a rising star in the Mixed Martial Arts fighting world, while Kevin made good money as an amateur costume designer. But Taylor says one thing Kevin couldn’t mask was his fear of his mother.
“He told me -- she had issues with his girlfriends in the past, and that she was crazy, and that she didn’t like when he would date people,” she told Schlesinger.
Taylor said Linda never approved of her cage fighting or her background - especially the fact that Karina had once briefly worked at what is politely called a “gentlemen’s club.”
“She told me that their family would never accept me,” Taylor said. “And ‘stay away from our family.’”
To make sure she got the message, Taylor said Linda had given her a warning.
“She had expressed to me ... that she carried a handgun in her purse at all times,” Taylor said. “And she wanted me to know that.”
The warning worked.
“So you’re a Mixed Martial Arts fighter and you were afraid of this woman,” Schlesinger asked Taylor.
“Yes,” she replied. “I am not Superman and I cannot bounce bullets off my chest.”
Kevin’s former girlfriend, Clarita Kendall, said she also felt threatened by Linda Cooney.
“Linda Cooney is extremely dangerous,” Kendall said. “Kevin -- was doing his best to be the buffer between his mother and I. Keeping me hidden.”
That’s because Kendall had received a call from Linda from out of nowhere.
“It was -- one of the most bizarre conversations of my life. Immediately she starts interrogating me about the relationship ... She was askin’ me questions about my age,” she told Schlesinger. “She’s so verbally abusive. She calls me Shanghai Lily, Tokyo Rose. ...She calls me a gold digger. She tells me, like, I’m an Asian whore. Like I’m after this pot of gold that Kevin has.”
Kendall said after Linda made those angry calls, things got a lot scarier.
“I was dropping Kevin off at his house ... And Linda Cooney pulls up,” Kendall said. “She jumps out of the car. And she starts beating my car, kicking my car.”
So Kendall called police:
Clarita Kendall: Her name is Linda Cooney. She’s like right next to me. She won’t let my car leave... Listen. You hear?
Linda Cooney: I told you to stay away from him you (expletive) bitch!
911 Operator: Is this your boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend? Or --
Clarita Kendall: No. This is his mother.
Throughout her relationship with Kevin, Kendall said she was forced to look over her shoulder.
“She became obsessed with me. ...This was not stalking. She was hunting me,” Kendall said of Linda Cooney. “I wanted to believe that she was overprotective. I wanted to believe that the problem -- was my age. “
“And what was the problem?” Schlesinger asked.
“That no one could have her son,” said Kendall.
According to prosecutors, after draining her ex-husband’s million-dollar life insurance policy, Linda was financially dependent on Kevin and his younger brother, Christopher, a police officer, who both lived with her. And when Linda felt she was losing control of her sons, prosecutors said she’d put an end to their relationships.
“Linda’s purpose was to make the women’s lives so miserable that they would no longer wanna be with Kevin,” said Clowers.
But it wasn’t working with Kevin’s new girlfriend, Karina Taylor. Prosecutors said messages he posted on Facebook suggest Kevin was finally ready to move out.
“He says that he’s gotta be so careful about--how he’s gonna separate himself from his mother,” Staudaher explained. “He’s basically made the decision to -- leave.”
“He was becoming more defiant,” added Clowers.
But prosecutors said as Kevin got more defiant, Linda got more desperate. She sent text messages to Karina’s supervisor at a nonprofit where she volunteered.
Asked what the text messages said, Clowers told Schlesinger, “That she’s a...succubus.”
“And all these different things,” said Staudaher.
“Succubus?” Schlesinger asked.
“We had to look it up,” said Clowers.
“Help me out,” said Schlesinger.
“It’s -- a demon in female form who has sex with men in their sleep to manipulate them,” Staudaher explained.
“I wanted Kevin to just fix the situation,” said Taylor.
Investigators believe that’s what Kevin was doing with his mother the morning she shot him.
“That was probably -- the final straw. That he told her, ‘I’m outta here.’ And he meant it,” Staudaher said. “She would not let him walk out that door.”
“What do you believe happened?” Schlesinger asked Clowers.
“We believe that Kevin was downstairs she explained. “That she came down there with the .357 ... And -- she shot him.”
“There were a lot of guns in that house. Why do you think she used this one?” Schlesinger asked.
“It’s a powerful gun. She knows the effect of it is death,” Clowers replied.
And prosecutors said just like in Palm Beach, Linda did not immediately call 911 for help.
“It shows she wanted him to die,” said Clowers.
Kevin was close to death, but Linda waited nearly 16 minutes before dialing 911. Phone records show her first call was to her other son, Christopher.
“It only became more and more apparent to us as the case went on ... that in fact she was guilty of this,” said Staudaher.
Nearly three months after Kevin’s shooting, Linda Cooney was arrested and charged with attempted murder. Prosecutors were more than confident about their case against her.
“We have Karina, Clarita, Nurse Luna, Nurse Johnson ... Nurse Hatch and Nurse Ervin where Kevin makes the statements of, ‘My mom shot me. I’m afraid of my mom.’ And then the forensic evidence and the physical evidence,” said Clowers.
“You’re just bragging now,” Schlesinger quipped.
“I am,” she said.
But they still had one very big problem with their key witness: Kevin himself.
“We really don’t know what’s gonna come out of his mouth ... until it actually happens,” said Staudaher.
THE FAMILY DYNAMIC
“She doesn’t have any barriers that the rest of us have,” Prosecutor Michael Staudaher said of Linda Cooney. “Nobody knows how far she will go.”
“She’s probably the most controlling and manipulative person you could come across,” Prosecutor Shanon Clowers said. “She scares me.”
“She scares you? You’re a prosecutor,” said Schlesinger.
“Yes,” Clowers replied.
Four months after a bullet was fired into Kevin Cooney’s neck, two things were clear: Kevin would never walk again and the case against Linda Cooney might never fly, because Kevin had completely changed his story again. He was no longer blaming his mother for shooting him.
“He says his mother and him were fighting that he attacked his mother and that it was an accident,” said Clowers.
“It was an accident,” said Michael Becker, Linda Cooney’s attorney.
Becker said none of this should be a surprise. It’s similar to the story Kevin first told police even before he went to the hospital as he lay gravely wounded.
“He believed he was dying and I believe that it was a dying declaration. His intent was to go on the record and make sure if he didn’t survive his mother would not be blamed,” he said.
So why would Kevin tell all those nurses that he was afraid of his mother and she shot him?
“I think that there are psychological explanations for why he would have been blaming Linda at that time,” said Becker.
Kevin was upset his mother was meddling in his relationship. But eventually, Becker said Kevin came to accept responsibility for the shooting.
“He basically had said, I was an ass, and it was my fault,” said Becker.
There have been reports of violence in the Cooney home for years. There were numerous calls to 911.
“I think that there was a duality to Kevin. I think that away from the home he was gregarious and friendly. But I think at home he had a lot of anger,” Becker continued.
Remember the Facebook messages Kevin sent to his girlfriend Karina Taylor? He said he had to be careful, but he wanted to move away from his mother. Becker said a closer look reveals a different story.
“You’ve got Facebook messages in print from Kevin where he’s actively fantasizing about killing his mom,” he said.
After one argument with his mother, just a few weeks before the shooting, Kevin wrote - “I wanted to kill her.”
“He also said that he had spit in his mother’s face and that he was about to crack,” Becker continued.
Schlesinger asked the prosecutors, “If he is saying, ‘I could kill my mother,’ doesn’t that support the defense’s argument -- that he came at her and he was trying to kill her?”
“Yes, sure,” Clowers replied. “Sure. But you have to read the whole posting. ...If you read the next paragraph, and this is to Karina from Kevin, it says, ‘Honey, by the way, I’m just kidding.”
“I don’t think that there’s such thing as jestful conversation about killing your mother,” said Becker. He said it was a hint of what was to come - a violent confrontation that ended with the shooting. His best evidence: the words of the victim, Kevin Cooney, which could be a problem for the prosecutors.
“His first statement said ... It was an accident,” Schlesinger noted.
“Correct,” the prosecutors replied.
“Why is that not in your mind, the most important statement that he makes? It’s right at the time of the shooting,” Schlesinger asked.
“That’s one of the reasons we had to establish the relationship that him and his mom had,” Clowers replied.
They insist Kevin was terrified of his mother. Not only did Linda try to control who her sons dated, according to prosecutors, she controlled who they spoke to.
“She put a child block on my phone number,” said Taylor.
“I’m sorry, she had control of the phone?” Schlesinger asked. “And she blocked your number from his phone?”
“Yes,” she replied. “Correct.”
“And how old was he at the time, pardon me?” Schlesinger continued.
“We had just turned 30,” said Taylor.
“She had the passwords,” Staudaher said. “...she was the one that could do the blocking of the texting or the phone calling. She controlled it. They had no control over it at all.”
“Does she love her kids do you think?” Schlesinger asked
“Yes. But not appropriately,” said Clowers. “They need to grow up, make their own decisions, have bedroom doors.”
“They don’t have bedroom doors?”
“No. The boys’ bedroom had no bedroom doors,” said Staudaher.
“And I think it’s telling, because Michael and I call them boys. And I don’t think we do it intentionally. They’re men. They’re grown men. And yet the way they’re treated are like boys,” Clowers added.
And prosecutors believe it’s been that way since that horrible moment when they were boys and Kevin saw his mother shoot his father. Prosecutors suspect Linda convinced Kevin back then that Jim would have killed them all had she not shot him first -- and that Kevin believes he owes his mother his life.
“It’s been going on for so long,” Staudaher said. “The brainwashing, the manipulation, the control has happened since they were little -- essentially little boys.
“There has to be a psychological control that she had over them that we as normal people don’t even understand and can’t really comprehend,” said Clowers.
But Linda’s lawyer is either very perceptive or extremely creative. Because, he will argue, Linda’s parenting style could be her best defense.
“If Linda is strange,” said Becker said, “isn’t that why Kevin snapped? Because he was tired of dealing with his strange mom. And I don’t deny that Linda is strange. Or perhaps Linda is a lot strange. But ... does that mean that she shot her son?”
LINDA COONEY ON TRIAL AGAIN
On April 8, 2014, more than 20 years after being acquitted of murdering her ex-husband in Palm Beach, Florida, Linda Cooney was back in court. This time it’s in Las Vegas for the attempted murder of her son, Kevin, who was shot and left partially paralyzed.
Michael Staudaher opened the state’s case.
“Linda Cooney, the woman sitting right over there ... will use fear, intimidation, manipulation, control,” he addressed the court. “And, one of the things that you’ll hear that Linda Cooney wants ... is ... exclusive control of her children.”
“The state would do everything possible to make you not like Linda Cooney,” defense attorney Michael Becker told the court.
But, Becker argued, while Linda Cooney is not the mother of the year, she would never try to kill her son.
“Kevin was to blame for his own injuries,” Becker told the court.
The state called Christopher Cooney, 30, Kevin’s brother and Linda’s younger son. Under oath, he would have to detail what he and his mother talked about on the phone just minutes after the shooting.
“I was trying to ask the questions like ‘where is he hit,’ ‘what the hell happened,’ and I couldn’t,” Christopher told the court, overcome with emotion. “I couldn’t get a response from her.”
Christopher was finishing his shift as a police officer when his mother called him instead of 911. Their conversation lasted nearly 16 minutes, and all the while Kevin lay dying. Prosecutors hoped to show the jury that Linda delayed calling 911, but they said Christopher was determined to put all the blame on his brother.
“If Kevin was upset or depressed because of whatever relationship woe he had, he would certainly carry it out on us,” Christopher testified.
Christopher described his brother as hostile and violent with a history of losing his temper at home. Then Christopher testified that before trial began, his mother told him exactly what happened right before the shooting.
“He was in a full-blown rage and he struck her,” he told the court. “She did say that Kevin was threatening to kill her.”
According to Christopher, the loaded .357 was always kept on the living room floor for home protection. Christopher said his mother told him she believed Kevin was going for the gun so she grabbed it first and ran for the door and that’s when Kevin pried it from her.
“The next thing she knew was, bang,” Christopher testified, “and Kevin went down.
Linda claimed she never even pointed the gun at Kevin - and she did not fire it that morning.
“I don’t buy that Linda shot her son,” said Linda’s attorney Michael Becker. “I don’t think there’s any motive.”
“Well, the argument was he was gonna move out. She didn’t want to lose him ... and it was the old ‘if I can’t have him nobody can have him’ motive,” said Schlesinger.
“I suppose that may work in the movie theatre,” Becker replied. “I find it hard to believe.”
Becker hopes the jury feels the same way when they hear from Kevin himself.
Kevin first testified from his hospital bed via video. Remember that he’s a witness for the prosecution.
“I was just in a rage,” Kevin testified. “I was just so angry that night.”
As his mother looked on, Kevin took all the blame for the shooting.
“I just, like, beat the (expletive) out of her. ...I beat her up. ...I told her I was going to kill her,” he told the court. He cried, “I’m sorry mom, I’m sorry.”
Prosecutors have told the jury Linda needed to control her sons, but Kevin said he was in control in the house -- not his mother.
“I tell mom what to do,” he testified. “Mom’s the kid in this relationship, not me. ...Mom does what I say or else mom gets the fist. That’s the way it works.”
“He is wanting to make it so much better for his mom, so what does he do? He goes to the extreme ... to try to get the jury to believe that he’s this ... monster man,” Staudaher told Schlesinger.
In court, Staudaher asked Kevin to use his hand to demonstrate the exact position of the gun.
Kevin, from his hospital bed, held up his right hand as if he had the gun in his grasp.
Prosecutors said if he held it the way he demonstrated, the gun would have been fired at an upward angle. But the state’s medical expert said the bullet was fired at a downward angle.
“It was slightly downward and slightly to the left,” Dr. John Fildes testified.
In all, the state called 26 witnesses, including nurses who testified that Kevin was afraid of his mother.
“’You don’t want to see your mother anymore?’ was the first question I asked him and he said, ‘No,’”
Nurse Christi Johnson told the court. “He said, ‘because she shot me.’”
And prosecutors were allowed to tell the jury that Linda was acquitted of murdering her ex-husband more than 20 years ago and that the same gun was used to shoot Kevin.
But the state saved their most critical witness for the last day, calling Kevin’s ex-girlfriend, Clarita Kendall, to the stand.
“He had something he had to tell me that he felt was very urgent,” Kendall told the court.
Kendall testified that she visited Kevin and he told her what happened when he was shot.
Prosecutor Staudaher: Does he indicate at any time that she picked up or had a gun in her hand?
Clarita Kendall: It was in her waistband. ...He said he started arguing with his mom and he was sitting on the couch.
Kevin never said it was an accident. Instead, Kendall testified that Kevin told her he was sitting down when he was shot. And prosecutors said that could explain why the bullet was fired at a downward angle.
“What did you think when you heard that?” Schlesinger asked Staudaher.
“I said, ‘Bingo,’” he replied. “That’s the story. ...And it matches the physical evidence.”
Becker said he doesn’t believe it. But what matters is, will the jury?
Becker has a way to counter Clarita Kendall’s testimony -- and it’s not what anyone expected.
Kevin Cooney was called to testify in person -- this time as a defense witness.
“Were you expecting Kevin to come back as a --?” Schlesinger asked the prosecutors, who replied, “No,” in unison.
“This has got to be the first time I’ve ever seen a prosecution witness become a defense witness within a couple of days,” Schlesinger commented.
“No, it was completely unexpected,” said Clowers.
It was just like in 1993, when Kevin testified at his mother’s murder trial. And now he could save her again:
Kevin Cooney: She got a hold of that gun. ...I got a hold of it and I jerked it up away from her.
Prosecutor Clowers: Which way was this gun pointed when it was fired?
Kevin Cooney: Downward.
Prosecutor Clowers: Downward. Do you remember testifying Monday that it was pointed upwards?
Kevin Cooney: No.
To prosecutors, it was clear that Kevin had changed his testimony to protect his mother:
Prosecutor Clowers: Your hopes of being released from the hospital, do you also hope your mom will be there to take care of you?
Kevin Cooney: She can’t possibly take care of me.
Prosecutor Clowers: You want her there though, don’t you?
Kevin Cooney: You know, I don’t know how my mom feels about me at this point.
Prosecutor Clowers: What if she still loves you, would you want her around?
Kevin Cooney: I certainly would like her around, yeah.
Prosecutor Clowers: Is that why the angle of the trajectory has somehow changed from Monday to Friday?
Kevin Cooney: What?!
“He loves his mother that much,” Clowers told Schlesinger. “He wants her back, which is his bias on that stand.”
Linda Cooney never testified, so jurors had only Kevin’s first-hand version -- or versions -- of what happened.
Which side does he help? In closing arguments, both sides want the jury to believe Kevin.
“Somebody when dying will speak the truth ... that’s what Kevin was doing when he said it was an accident,” Becker told the court.
“When he wakes up, the first conscious words are what? ‘I’m afraid of mom, no mom, she shot me,’” Staudaher told jurors.
In the last few hours of the trial, the lawyers have to define Linda Cooney. Is she a victim as the defense says?
“Linda had injuries ... that were inconsistent with anything other than having been attacked,” Becker said in court.
Or is she a controlling, possessive, vindictive mother who would do anything to dominate her children -- even at their own expense?
“She controlled the phone ... They had no bedroom doors,” Clowers told the court. “She’s not gonna lose Kevin to that succubus. ... Nobody is gonna have him if she can’t keep him.
“WE HAVE A VERDICT”
It was just like the Florida case 21 years earlier. The jury came back with a verdict in Linda Cooney’s latest trial in less than a day -- way less.
“I was shocked at roughly an hour,” said Prosecutor Michael Staudaher.
In fact, the jurors spent about as much time eating lunch as they did deliberating.
Neither side knew what to expect. The verdict would likely depend on which version of Kevin Cooney’s story the jury would believe.
Jurors found Linda guilty of attempted murder. They did not believe Kevin when he said he shot himself by accident.
And there were a number of other charges against Linda Cooney. The jury found her guilty of battery with a deadly weapon, guilty of intimidating Kevin before he testified and guilty of stalking Kevin’s girlfriend, Karina Taylor.
Linda’s attorney says he knows exactly when he lost the case.
“I knew going into the case that when the jury heard about Florida 20 years ago that that was going to be the single most devastating blow to the defense,” Becker told Schlesinger. “My hunch is that -- the jurors probably felt ... that whatever happened in Florida -- she must have gotten away with something.”
Nearly three months later, Linda went back to court for her sentencing. The other women in Kevin’s life, Karina Taylor and Clarita Kendall, were also there and so was Linda’s son, Christopher.
Jim Cooney’s brother, Bob, was there to remind the judge of everything he said Linda did to his family.
“Linda subjected my family to ... harassment, threats, injuries and death,” he told the court.
And Bob Cooney warned the judge that his nephew, Kevin, could still be in danger if Linda is ever released.
“Imagine the potential ongoing abuse that Kevin might be subjected to inherent with visits from his mommy dearest,” Bob Cooney continued.
Kevin didn’t come to the sentencing. But he sent a note defending his mother, saying:
“My mother has been wrongly accused and convicted of crimes she did not commit. It was by my own actions that I find myself in my present condition ... my mother is unjustly incarcerated.”
And then, at last, Linda spoke.
“I was a battered wife. My sons were battered as well,” she told the court. “I had done my best to raise, educate and protect my sons as a single mother.”
But Linda blamed it all on Kevin.
“Unfortunately, my son, Kevin, carried with him an anger and rage disorder that he must have inherited from his father. ...Yet, I always protected, defended and loved my son and I would never have intentionally harmed him,” Linda continued. “What happened was his fault. It was an accident. ...Please have mercy on me, Your Honor.”
Clearly, prosecutors don’t have mercy in mind.
“This woman is a clear and present danger to everyone in society, and anyone that crosses her path. If there was a woman who was deserving of the maximum sentence on all charges,” Staudaher said pointing at Linda, “this woman is it.”
The judge didn’t go that far. She sentenced Linda Cooney to 13 to 40 years in prison.
“You think that even with her in prison, conceivably for the rest of her life, they’ll still be tied to her?” Schlesinger asked Staudaher.
“One would hope that -- they could break off -- and live their own lives. Whether it can happen or not with her, I don’t know,” he replied.
Even though he hasn’t seen them since the trial, Bob Cooney said he thinks about his nephews all the time. He would like to help them, and to be sure Kevin gets the medical care he’ll need for the rest of his life.
“My brother would’ve done it,” he said. “I hope there’s some things that I can do to help this story. It’s not gonna have a happy ending, but maybe I can make it a little happier than it might be otherwise.”
After the verdict, Bob Cooney tried to visit Kevin. Kevin refused to see him.
On Dec.16, the Nevada Supreme Court heard Linda Cooney’s appeal arguing that evidence of her 1993 murder acquittal was prejudicial and should not have been allowed. A decision is expected in months.