Victims: Wendy Offredo, 21, and Dawn McCreery, 20
Age at time of murders: 17 1/2
Crime date: September 1, 1986
Crime location: Norton, Ohio
Partner in crime: Richard Wade Cooey II, 19, and Kenneth Horonetz, 18 (Horonetz left before the rapes and murders)
Crimes: Kidnapping, robbery, rape, and killing to eliminate witnesses
Murder method: Beating and strangulation
Weapon: Shoe laces and night stick
Murder motivation: Witness elimination
Convictions: Kidnapping, aggravated robbery, felonious assault, rape, and aggravated murder
Sentence: 95 years to life later reduced to 30 years to life by Senate Bill 256
As Dawn and Wendy were driving to an inn after finishing their waitressing shifts, their car was struck by a large chunk of concrete, which had been thrown by Dickens from an overpass. Dickens, Cooey, and one other man were throwing objects off the overpass to amuse themselves. The three men drove Dawn and Wendy to a shopping mall where Wendy called her mother using a payphone. At the mall, Dickens suggested to the other men that they rob the girls. The men left the mall with Dawn and Wendy, only instead of taking them to the scene of the crash, they kidnapped them. Cooey and Dickens took the girls to an isolated wooded area while the other assailant demanded to be let out and left. Dickens and Cooey robbed and raped both women. Dickens decided that the girls needed to die, as they had heard his first name. The two rapists beat and strangled the women and hid their bodies. They were later apprehended. Cooey received the death penalty and was later executed while Dickens received 95 years to life in prison. Dickens’s sentence was reduced by SB 256.
After midnight on September 1, 1986, Dawn and Wendy began heading to the Harbor Inn, after finishing their waitressing shifts at the Brown Derby Restaurant. The University of Akron sorority sisters never made it to the inn, as their car was hit by a large chunk of concrete that Dickens had thrown off an I-77 overpass. Dickens, who was 17-and-a-half, had been engaging in criminal mischief by throwing objects off the bridge, along with his friends Kenneth Horonetz, 18, and Richard Wade Cooey, 19. Upon being struck, Wendy and Dawn pulled over. Dickens and his associates offered assistance to the girls and ended up driving them to a shopping mall in Cooey’s car. While Wendy used a payphone to call her mother, Dickens noticed money in her purse and suggested to Cooey and Horonetz that they rob the women. And they did.
Wendy, Dawn, and the three men got back into Cooey’s car and left the mall. When the girls realized that they were not returning to the scene of the concrete throwing incident, they asked where they were going. It was then that Cooey pulled out a knife, ordered the girls to “shut up”, and gave the knife to Dickens. Dickens held the women at knifepoint. Dawn gave up her purse and Wendy begged the kidnappers not to harm them. Horonetz demanded to be let out of the vehicle and was able to leave. Dawn and Wendy were not.
Cooey drove Dawn and Wendy to an isolated wooded area in Norton. There, Dickens raped Wendy. Cooey raped both women. As he raped Wendy, he said “Hey, Clint, put on the Bad Company tape.” After the rapes, Dickens and Cooey put the women back into the car. Dickens told Cooey that because the women knew his first name, they would have to be killed.
Dickens and Cooey brought the women back outside the car. Dickens proceeded to beat Dawn with a nightstick while Cooey grabbed Wendy in a chokehold and rendered her unconscious. He tied his bandanna around her ankles to prevent her from kicking him. Dickens then gave Cooey a shoelace, which Cooey used to strangle Wendy. Dickens strangled Dawn with his other shoelace. Additionally, Cooey beat both girls with the nightstick. Wendy suffered at least three blows and Dawn suffered at least eleven. Strangulation also contributed to Wendy’s death.
Cooey and Dickens then stole Wendy’s jewelry, hid the women’s bodies in the weeds, brushed away their tire tracks with branches, and went to a car wash to clean off the bloodstains on the car and themselves. Finally, they discarded the girls’ purses.
Richard Wade Cooey II was sentenced to death for these brutal murders. He was executed in 2008. Dickens was sentenced to 95 years to life. However, because of Senate Bill 256, he is up for parole in October of 2021.
On the night of August 31, 1986, Wendy Offredo, twenty-one, and Dawn McCreery, twenty, finished their shift at the Brown Derby Restaurant in Montrose, Ohio. Sometime after midnight on September 1, they left for the Harbor Inn, located in Portage Lakes. They never arrived.
Their course of travel along Interstate Route 77 took them underneath the Stoner Street Bridge in Akron. Appellant, Richard Wade Cooey II, on leave from the United States Army, was standing on the bridge with two friends, Clint Dickens and Kenneth Horonetz. They were amusing themselves by throwing things off the bridge. Just as Wendy and Dawn passed below, Dickens threw a large chunk of concrete over the side. The concrete hit Wendy’s car, forcing her to pull over.
Cooey and his two friends went to offer assistance to Wendy and Dawn. All five of them got into Cooey’s car, and Cooey drove to a shopping mall, where they found a pay telephone on which Wendy called her mother.
While Wendy was talking to her mother, Dickens saw money in her purse. He suggested to Cooey and Horonetz that the three of them rob Wendy and Dawn. Cooey replied, “I’m game if you’re game.”
Everyone got back into the car, and the group left the mall. When they realized Cooey was not returning to the site of the “accident,” the women asked Cooey where he was going. He pulled out a knife and ordered them to “shut up.” He then gave the knife to Dickens, who opened it and held it on the women. Dawn gave up her purse, while she and Wendy asked their assailants not to hurt them. Cooey told Horonetz to tie Dawn’s hands, whereupon Horonetz demanded to be let out of the car, and Cooey let him out.
After letting Horonetz out, Cooey drove to an isolated wooded area in Norton, Ohio, where Dickens raped Wendy. Cooey later admitted to police that he tried to have sex with Dawn, but claimed that he stopped. However, the coroner’s examination indicated that Dawn had oral and vaginal intercourse before death.
After he was finished with Dawn, Cooey had oral and vaginal sex with Wendy. While he was with Wendy, Cooey said, “Hey, Clint, put on the Bad Company tape.” After Cooey was finished with Wendy, he and Dickens put the women back into the car. Dickens then told Cooey that he had not been “really worried,” although the women knew what he and Cooey looked like; however, now that they knew Dickens’ first name, they would have to be killed.
Dickens and Cooey brought the women back outside. Dickens began to beat Dawn with a nightstick belonging to Cooey. Meanwhile, Cooey grabbed Wendy in a choke hold, rendering her unconscious. He tied his bandanna around her ankles to keep her from kicking him. Dickens then tossed Cooey a shoelace, and Cooey strangled Wendy with it while Dickens strangled Dawn with his other shoelace. Cooey also beat both women with the nightstick.
Cooey and Dickens then stole Wendy’s jewelry, dragged the bodies away from the road, and hid them in the weeds. After brushing away their tire tracks with branches, they went to a car wash to get rid of the bloodstains on themselves and the car. Finally, they discarded the purses.
The bodies were found later on September 1. The Summit County Coroner concluded that Wendy and Dawn had died of multiple blows to the head — Wendy received at least three blows and Dawn at least eleven — with strangulation also contributing to Wendy’s death. He also concluded that both women had had oral and vaginal intercourse.
The day the bodies were found, Cooey visited David Jones. He tried to sell Jones two watches (one made of black plastic), and other jewelry that was stained with blood. Cooey explained to Jones how he had acquired them: “* * * He said one of his buddies dropped * * * a rock off of a bridge onto the girl’s car and that they * * * robbed them and raped them and then dumped them off behind Rolling Acres [Mall].” Cooey also boasted that Jones “should see a billy club now that it wasn’t the original color.”
That evening, Cooey had a visit from Terry Grant. He confided to Grant that he had killed the women, describing “how he beated [ sic] them three times and * * * strangled them with shoelaces * * *.” Cooey then showed Grant the nightstick, telling him “this was the stick that he beated [ sic] the girls with * * *.” The stick was wrapped in black electrical tape. The tape had blood on it.
On September 2, Cooey retrieved the purses and brought them to his house. When Terry Grant came to visit that day, he found Cooey, Dickens, and Horonetz burning the purses and a pair of Cooey’s gym shorts.
On the evening of September 2, Akron detectives arrested Cooey at home. Cooey was wearing a watch later identified as Wendy’s. He asked the arresting officers if he could take it off and leave it with his grandmother. They refused permission. Other officers then obtained a warrant to search Cooey’s house and car. They found the nightstick in his room and several pieces of Wendy’s jewelry in the pockets of a jacket in the car.
While the officers were searching, Cooey was being interrogated by an Akron police officer and a police detective. They questioned him from 10:00 p.m. to 12:34 a.m. (during which time Cooey guided them to Dickens’ house), from 1:55 to 2:14 a.m., and from 2:45 to 3:16 a.m. There was also some conversation, of indeterminate length, between 2:14 and 2:45.
The Summit County Grand Jury indicted Cooey for the aggravated murder of Wendy Offredo, charging him with violating R.C. 2903.01(A) and (B). Each aggravated murder count carried three specifications of aggravating circumstances: R.C. 2929.04(A)(3), R.C. 2929.04(A)(5), and R.C. 2929.04(A)(7). The indictment also charged Cooey with kidnapping Wendy with purpose to engage in sexual activity with her against her will, R.C. 2905.01(A)(4); vaginal and oral rape, R.C. 2907.02(A); and aggravated robbery, R.C. 2911.01(A)(1) and (2). Cooey was also charged with an identical array of crimes against Dawn McCreery. Finally, he was charged with felonious assault, R.C. 2903.11(A)(2), with regard to dropping the chunk of concrete on Wendy’s car.
Cooey was tried by a three-judge panel of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, which convicted him of all charges and specifications. After Cooey was convicted, the two convictions of aggravated murder under R.C. 2903.01(A) were merged into the two convictions under R.C. 2903.01(B). After the mitigation hearing, Cooey was sentenced to death for each murder. The Court of Appeals for Summit County affirmed the convictions and sentence.
The cause is before us on an appeal as of right.
State v. Cooey, 46 Ohio St. 3d 20, (Ohio 1989)
Dawn McCreery, 20, and Wendy Offredo, 21, were University of Akron sorority sisters who were leaving their jobs as waitresses when 17-year-old Clint Dickens threw a chunk of concrete off an I-77 overpass, striking the windshield of the car that Ms. Offredo was driving. Cooey, who was 19 and on leave from the U.S. Army, was hanging out with a longtime friend, Kenny Horonetz, and Dickens. The three got into a car and offered the two women help. The five drove to a shopping mall and Ms. Offredo used a pay phone to call her mother. “I’m game if you’re game,” Cooey said as Dickens suggested they rob the two women. Cooey pulled a knife on the women when they realized they were not being driven back to their car. Horonetz demanded to be let out of the car after Cooey told him to tie Ms. McCreery’s hands. Driving to a wooded area in nearby Norton, Dickens and Cooey both raped the two girls. Dickens then suggested the women should be killed because they knew his name, records show. Dickens grabbed Ms. Offredo in a chokehold, and Cooey used a shoelace to strangle her as Dickens strangled Ms. McCreery with his other shoelace. Cooey beat both women with a club. Dickens was sentenced to life in prison for the crimes, in which both girls suffered through more than three hours of torture.
Richard Wade Cooey II died peacefully Tuesday with a lethal combination of drugs administered through two needles inserted gently into veins in each arm.
He was executed by the state of Ohio for the rape and murders — by bludgeoning and strangulation — of two college students who were not afforded such comfort in their deaths.
“It’s done,” said Mary Ann Hackenberg, mother of one of the victims, Dawn McCreery, who said she could sense her daughter’s presence in the death chamber.
“I know she was there,” she said. “I felt her there.”
Cooey was sentenced to death in 1986 for the rape and murder that year of the 20-year-old McCreery and her sorority sister, Wendy Offredo, 21. He was hours away from execution when he won a reprieve in 2003. Tuesday, his appeals ran out when the U.S. Supreme Court denied his last-ditch effort.
He remained defiant even in his final statement, uttering an obscenity when Warden Phillip Collins held a microphone above his lips, before a combination of three drugs flowed through the tubes over the course of nearly 10 minutes, ending his life.
“You … haven’t paid any attention to what I’ve had to say over the past 221/2 years, why are you going to pay attention to what I have to say now?” he said, not looking at any of the six witnesses from the McCreery family or his three lawyers and a spiritual adviser, who were witnesses.
At 10:06 a.m., a monitor in the witness viewing room flickered to life, showing Cooey lying on a gurney in a prep room adjacent to the death chamber, his feet crossed. Technicians inserted ports into veins in each arm without difficulty, despite his legal claims that his veins would be too difficult to access partly because of his obesity.
Hackenberg, of Rocky River, one of six witnesses from the McCreery family, said, “They got it,” when the needle was inserted.
Cooey shouted for his lawyer, Greg Meyers, twice. Meyers, who was in the witness room along with two other lawyers and Cooey’s spiritual adviser, did not move.
At 10:15 a.m., with ports inserted and his arms strapped to boards, Cooey kicked his legs, got off the gurney, and walked to the death chamber, where he climbed onto another gurney. Six guards in white strapped him down with four black straps. Tubing, which extended from the wall in the adjacent room, was connected to the ports.
At 10:19, Cooey made his final statement and drummed his fingers — pinky to index finger — on the board supporting his left arm. At 10:21, he exhaled with a faint noise. Warden Phillip Kerns of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility shook Cooey’s shoulder. He did not respond. By 10:28, he was dead. Sodium pentothal induced deep sleep, pancuronium bromide stopped his breathing, and potassium chloride stopped his heart.
Hackenberg threw back her head and exhaled as a curtain was drawn across the viewing window. She hugged her son, Rob McCreery, and held the hand of her ex-husband, Robert McCreery Sr. A black hearse waited outside the death house to take Cooey’s body.
Dana Cole, who identified himself as Cooey’s lawyer and friend and to whom Cooey’s cremated remains will be given, said Cooey was an immature 19-year-old influenced by drugs and alcohol when he committed his crime.
“What we witness here today was a killing that was planned and funded for more than 22 years,” he said. “The man killed was not the same man who committed the crimes.”
Rob McCreery said Cooey is exactly the same, proven by his final words.
“Just being spiteful to the very end,” said McCreery. “It just shows how much this was warranted and justified.”
After the execution, the family talked of their relief that Cooey had finally been brought to justice and the peacefulness of his passing despite his claims that lethal injection was “cruel and unusual.”
“The thing that’s going to now give us the greatest comfort is knowing that he now has to be accountable to a power greater than himself and now he’s got to reckon with that,” said Dawn McCreery’s cousin, Kathy Miska, one of the execution witnesses.
Hackenberg was at once relieved and still angry.
“It was too easy. It’s as much justice as we’re going to get, as much closure as we’ll get, but it was just too easy,” she said.
“He didn’t get a free pass,” said her husband, John Hackenberg.
Rob McCreery said he had hoped for the execution for so long — he was 17 when his big sister was killed — that he’s not sure where to turn his attention now.
“But I can tell you it was a nicer day coming out of there than it was going in,” he said.
Cooey is the first Ohio inmate to be executed since May 2007, the 27th since 1999.
Cooey was 19 and home on leave from the Army when, in 1986, the Akron native and an accomplice, 17-year-old Clint Dickens, raped and murdered Offredo and McCreery.
Dickens threw a chunk of concrete from an overpass onto Offredo’s car, disabling it. They then drove down to the highway and picked up the women, offering to get them help. Instead, they drove them to a secluded field in Norton where they raped them, beat them with a wooden club and strangled them with shoelaces.
Dickens was sentenced to life in prison for the crimes, in which both girls suffered through more than three hours of what Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh called “fear and torture and agony.” Because Dickens was still a juvenile when he committed the crime, he wasn’t eligible for the death penalty.
The night before his execution, as Cooey sat on his bed or paced and slept for slightly more than an hour, Dawn McCreery’s family gathered in her brother Rob’s hotel room, sharing stories, watching the Browns’ unexpected victory and drinking cold beers. Bevan Walsh joined them.
Rob McCreery opened a gift bag from a former Alpha Delta Pi sorority sister of Dawn and Wendy. It was a shirt with the sorority’s Greek lettering, one that Dawn had actually worn. The card said it was for Rob McCreery’s 5-year-old daughter.
The morning sky, still dark, was full of stars as a nearly full moon loomed over the hills of Lucasville. At breakfast in the Holiday Inn Express, someone noted that it was a harvest moon.
Perfect for execution day. “You reap what you sow,” said Nicole McCreery, Rob’s wife.