Horrific crimes against Alisha Bromfield spur law change in 32 states
02/06/2018 2:28 pm PST
The topic of workplace harassment continues to make headlines daily.
Crime Watch Daily has the story of an overly aggressive male boss, his frightened female employee and a wedding night that would end in murder.
An eerie moment captured on gas station surveillance. A mysterious stranger walks straight up to the clerk. But he's not here to make a purchase. He has something to say.
The victim is 21-year-old expectant mother Alisha Bromfield. Just hours before, she was toasting the bride and groom at an outdoor wedding.
So what happened after the bouquet was tossed and the cake was cut?
And just who is the man making such a killer confession?
Alisha Bromfield's mother Sherry still has trouble making sense of why her daughter ended up so far from where it all began.
A loving daughter and friend and a soon-to-be mom. Alisha was 6 and a half months pregnant with a little girl. But there were challenges. Alisha was going to be a single mother. The father of her child, someone she met at college, didn't want to be involved. But Alisha was just fine with that -- even better than fine.
"She was so, so excited to be a mother, and she named her baby Ava Lucille," said Alisha's mother Sherry Anicich.
One semester away from graduating with degrees in forensic psychology and criminal justice, Alisha was working at the same job she'd had since she was 16, in the garden department at a major national retail store.
"She always wanted to be good at her job, so she worked really, really hard to do well," said Alisha's best friend Olivia Hogan.
And all that hard work didn't go unnoticed by Alisha's boss, a 36-year-old man named Brian Cooper.
"When I met him I actually got a job from him too. He was very friendly," said Olivia.
And the apparently affable supervisor seemed to take an instant liking to Alisha, with the two striking up a casual friendship, though Alisha's best friend is quick to point out, that's all it was.
In fact, Alisha's mom thinks the main reason Alisha really hung around with her much older boss was self-preservation.
"I think she was very afraid of losing her job," said Sherry Anicich. "She had a baby that was coming to support and this job had offered her time off in the winter, with pay, and she never had that before, being only 21."
Alisha's loved ones also believe that's why Alisha ended up saying yes when Brian Cooper asked her to accompany him to his sister's out-of-town wedding.
"She said 'I need to keep this job,'" said Olivia.
And besides, they'd just be going as friends. How bad could it be? The August nuptials will take place some four hours away in idyllic Door County, Wisconsin.
"Door County, Wisconsin is a kind of rural area right along Lake Michigan. It's very popular for people who live in Chicago, just a few-hour-drive away. You can rent cabins, go fishing and people host weddings," said reporter Geoff Ziezulewicz.
And Brian Cooper booked the Sand Bay Beach Resort for their accommodations.
"I had never heard of the place before," said Olivia. "I had to look it up, I didn't realize how far away it was, but the way she explained it, she like 'It's fine, we're staying at the hotel with the whole wedding party, so we're all gonna be in the same place, and then we're gonna come home the next morning and it'll be fine.'"
But on the August 2012 morning of the wedding, Sherry receives a strange call from her daughter.
"She said 'We're packing up the car to leave' and I said 'Why, what happened?' And she said 'We got in a fight,'" said Sherry. "I said 'How could he do that to his sister?' You know, he was walking his sister down the aisle. And I said 'Make sure that you call the sister at the hotel and tell her that you're not coming.' She goes 'I don't know where she's staying,' and I said 'What do you mean, you guys aren't at the same place?' 'No.'
"I texted her later and I said 'Is everything OK?' and she said 'Yes, we're staying,'" said Sherry.
And then, the wedding. Brian Cooper walks his sister down the aisle at the intimate outdoor ceremony. Then they celebrate the newlyweds at the reception. After the last champagne toast, Cooper and Alisha return to the resort.
Just a few hours after that, Alisha Bromfield will be dead, and a mystery man in sopping wet clothes will confess to every chilling detail.
A convenience store clerk calls 911 after a soaking wet man walks into the store and says he needs to report an emergency.
The morning after a beautiful lakeside wedding, gas station surveillance video captures a man in wet clothes walk in and up to the counter. He's there not to fill up; he's there to 'fess up.
"Hello? I'd like to report a murder, please."
The man making the shocking claim? Brian Cooper.
Brian Cooper, the brother of the bride. And the woman he's calling to report murdered was his date to the wedding, 21-year-old Alisha Bromfield.
911: "You know for sure that a murder occurred?"
Brian Cooper: "Yes."
911: "Do you know if it was today that this happened?"
Cooper: "Last night."
911: "And did you witness it?"
911: "You witnessed it. OK. Do you know where her body is?"
Cooper: "In the room. Sands Bay Beach Resort, something like that."
911: "Do you know who murdered her?"
Cooper: "I did."
911: "You did. OK. Was it an accident, or were you angry, or?"
Cooper: "It was intentional."
911: "It was intentional? OK. Well you're doing the right thing, I'm glad you called me."
Cooper: "I'm a good person besides what I did last night. Alisha's family is going to flip. Everyone is going to flip."
Moments later, Door County Sheriff's deputies arrive at the gas station. Cooper, 36, is taken into custody, then down to the station.
Door County Sheriff's Investigator Mark Winkel learns of the bizarre 911 call and immediately heads over to the resort.
"When I arrived, after opening the door I could see a female decedent in her 20s," said Winkel. "She was laying on the floor. She was nude, but did have a blanket covering her up to about her chest, and her head was on a pillow, and obviously deceased, but it just appeared as if she was resting. A little closer examination of the body, you could see that there were injuries, bruising, scratch marks."
While the ghastly crime scene is processed, Winkel heads to the station to interview Brian Cooper. Will the confessed killer continue to talk, or will he clam up? The interview is recorded.
Winkel: "So what brought you up to Door County?"
Cooper: "It was my little sister's wedding."
Winkel: "And that wedding was last night?"
Cooper: "The reception, yeah."
Winkel: "And who'd you come up with?
Winkel: "And how do you know Alisha?"
Cooper: "We're co-workers, and we're somewhat dating. Was. And she's pregnant."
Winkel: "She pregnant with your child?"
Cooper: "I've always wanted more but I always was respecting her because of her pregnancy."
Cooper tells Winkel how he and Alisha argued earlier in the day, and by the end of it Alisha had had enough, informing him:
Cooper: "There wasn't gonna be like a friendship after we got back."
But then, was there ever much of a friendship to begin with? Reportedly, Alisha Bromfield only agreed to attend the wedding because Cooper threatened to fire her if she didn't. Alisha's best friend and one-time co-worker says she believes it based on how Cooper often treated Alisha at work.
"It was just a lot of forcing her to do things, like go to work when she maybe had a doctor's appointment, or if she couldn't come in almost demeaning who she was as a person just to make her feel bad, making her feel like 'This is your number one priority, you always have to be here,'" said Olivia Hogan.
There was also name-calling.
"Alisha had told me he had called her a slut and a whore at work," said Alisha's mother Sherry.
But the icing on the hostile work environment cake was what Cooper was actually saying about Alisha.
"He's telling other people and other co-workers that 'This is my girlfriend, and you know, we're gonna go out on a date,' and they never did," said Olivia.
At least, not until that wedding.
Cooper says after the wedding and reception, they went back to the room. That's when things took a tragic turn.
Cooper: "We got back to the hotel and she just went to bed, into the bed, and I was drinking."
Winkel: "Did she fall asleep?"
Winkel: "And what was going through your mind when she was asleep?"
Cooper: "The reality was setting in that there wasn't going to be even a friendship when we got back, which was today."
Winkel: "And you didn't want that to happen?"
Cooper: "I didn't, no. And I was debating what I was doing, and I was doing some prepping on my thinking about her, harming her."
Winkel: "OK. So you were doing some prepping, what kind of prepping?"
Cooper: "Well, I put some cords on a, I was thinking about maybe tying her up or whatever, but I didn't, so there was some cords like underneath the bed legs. Like a cord from like a cellphone or something, I don't remember, with a plug in it, maybe it was from my computer or I don't remember exactly what it was. It was like a white one and a black one."
Winkel: "Right. Were you thinking of tying her up or strangling her with that?"
Cooper: "No, I was thinking of like trying her legs."
Winkel: "Tying her legs."
Cooper: "But as she was sleeping she was moving her legs, so then I just said 'That's just stupid.'"
Winkel: "So when she's sleeping on the bed, where were you?"
Cooper: "I was just pacing outside and coming inside, having a cigarette, coming back inside."
Winkel: "She's asleep. Were you getting more angry?"
Cooper: "I was."
Winkel: "You were getting more angry."
Cooper: "Maybe I wouldn't call it angry. Maybe frustrated. Hurt, feeling hurt, and then I laid in bed."
Winkel: "And then what happened? I mean, you decided 'Enough.'"
Cooper: "And she woke up a little bit and then I imagined something about, 'cause we watch this TV show that I have on DVDs, um, and we were planning on doing it this coming Sunday."
Winkel: "OK, so you asked her about maybe watching a show on Sunday, and what was her response, like 'There isn't gonna be a Sunday with us.'"
Cooper: "Right, right. That kinda triggered."
Winkel: "Then what did you do?"
Cooper: "Then I kinda just jumped on her in bed."
Winkel: "OK, was she on her back?"
Cooper: "She was. And I jumped her, and she got scared, I got scared."
Winkel: "So were you on top of her then. And you kind of straddled over her?"
Cooper: "Yeah, and then I just started strangling her."
Winkel: "With your hands."
Cooper: "With my hands."
Winkel: "And what did she do, did she fight back?"
Cooper: "She did fight back, and then she was yelling about the baby [crying] and saying 'Don't do it to me,' because of the baby. And she bit my finger, and then we rolled off the bed and then where she was laying, that's where it happened."
Winkel: "How long do you think you choked her?"
Cooper: "I think it happened really fast. From the bed to the floor, maybe a couple minutes."
As chilling as Cooper's confession was, it was about to get so much worse.
As calmly as someone might order a pizza, Brian Cooper has just confessed to killing his one of his co-workers. And as equally as disturbing as the act itself were the details Cooper provides to investigators about what happened after the murder.
We want to warn you, what he has to say is very graphic.
Brian Cooper strangled Alisha Bromfield to death, squeezing the life out of her and her unborn baby girl.
As if killing Alisha and her daughter wasn't monstrous enough, Cooper was about to share the actual depths of his depravity.
Winkel: "Did you have sex with her last night?"
Cooper: "Yeah, after, after I strangled her."
Cooper says he raped Alisha postmortem.
Winkel: "So after she's dead you took her clothes off and then um she's on the floor, right?"
Cooper: "Right. I just wanted like to see her naked I guess."
Winkel: "OK. And then did you take your clothes off, or were you already..."
Cooper: "I just, yes I just took my pants off."
Winkel: "How long did you have sex with her?"
Cooper: "Probably a minute or two, maybe three, tops."
Afterwards he morbidly made a bed for his victim.
Winkel: "She had a pillow under her head."
Cooper: "I might have done that last night."
Winkel: "OK. And then the blanket you covered her up with, the blanket after you had sex with her."
Then Brian Cooper says he tried to kill himself, first with a dull knife, then with a corkscrew, but neither worked. So he went to sleep in the bathtub. And when he woke the next morning, he drove to a nearby park.
Cooper: "I got into the bay and swam all the way out there and tried to drown myself, and I was panicking and couldn't do it, and I was trying."
Winkel: "You realized that life was still worth living."
Winkel: "And then you got back in your car."
Cooper: "Yep, and then I was trying to find like a gas station to call the cops."
Considering everything Cooper just confessed, Door County Sheriff's Investigator Mark Winkel needs to know: Has he done this before?
Winkel: "No one else is dead or anything?"
Winkel: "OK. Have you ever harmed anyone else?"
Cooper: "Yes. My ex-girlfriend. I just couldn't get through to her so I tied her up for the purpose of trying to like talk to her."
Winkel: "Were you arrested for that?"
Winkel: "She didn't report it to the police?"
So when it was all horrifically said and done, what was Brian Cooper's motive for killing Alisha Bromfield and her unborn child?
Cooper: "I felt like I didn't want to go back home and ..."
Winkel: "You didn't want to be alone?"
Cooper: "No. It's not going to -- there's nothing when we come back home. I didn't want to drive six hours home and feel like doing that."
Winkel: "So ultimately though it just got to be too much and you strangled her?"
Winkel: "Did you mean to kill her?"
Winkel: "Yes? OK."
Brian Cooper is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and third-degree sexual assault of a corpse. While Cooper is being booked and his injuries photographed, across the state line in Illinois, a police officer friend of Alisha's mother Sherry Anicich is tasked with delivering the devastating news.
"He had tears in his eyes and I knew at that second that Alisha was gone," Sherry tells Crime Watch Daily. "I thought he was gonna tell me that Alisha died in a car accident on the way home, and he said 'There's been a homicide,' and I just couldn't believe it. I just, my life changed forever that day, and I just couldn't believe that that was true. He strangled her, he killed her. Instead of calling 911 to save the baby, he raped her."
Despite Brian Cooper's very detailed confession, he shockingly enters a plea of not guilty. So 10 months later, Alisha Bromfield's family is forced to face her killer in court.
Cooper claimed "voluntary intoxication" as his defense, saying he was too drunk to know what he was doing when he killed Alisha.
At trial, Alisha's mom hears the 911 call and the interrogation of Cooper confessing to the killing. Also revealed in court was even more evidence of Cooper's perverted obsession with Alisha Bromfield. During a search of Cooper's laptop computer, cops found multiple videos of Alisha shot in his Plainfield, Illinois home. Cooper had installed a spy camera after "drilling a small hole in a triangular shelf that was positioned in front of his toilet."
"He would ask her to go over there and take his dog out, and so he would have spy cameras in there capturing her going to the bathroom," said Sherry.
Cooper also brought a spy camera to the Wisconsin resort where he killed Alisha, hiding it in a trash can in the bathroom.
"He actually did capture her getting out of the shower when she was naked, which was so disgusting," said Sherry.
After five days of testimony, including Brian Cooper taking the stand in his own defense, the case went to the jury.
The verdict: a hung jury, split 10 to 2.
Alisha's mom Sherry was devastated and disgusted.
"I was so shocked that I walked out of the courtroom as soon as they said hung jury. Even more shocking, they were women," said Sherry. "For two women to say that he was not guilty because they felt that he was intoxicated after hearing all of the evidence was mind-boggling to me."
"I mean it was just a punch in the gut," said Door County Sheriff's Investigator Mark Winkel. "To me, this was a slam dunk. We had a crime, we had a defendant who confessed, we had the evidence that matched his confession, and that confession was videotaped, it was played in front of the jury."
But two of those jurors believed his voluntary intoxication defense.
"A defense that Mr. Cooper was so intoxicated he didn't know what he was doing," said Winkel. "I have to be honest with you, that didn't appear to be the case here because he was able to recall the crime in such detail."
He told you exactly step by step what he did.
"Step by step with detail and what was going through his head at the time," said Winkel.
Brian Cooper was found guilty of the third-degree sexual assault. But would he walk on the murder charges?
Jurors at Brian Cooper's trial watched him on videotape confess to killing Alisha Bromfield and her unborn baby girl. His defense was voluntary intoxication -- basically Cooper said he was too drunk to be able to form intent when he committed the crime.
"Our conclusion was that yes, he had been drinking, but clearly not to the point where he was so incapacitated," said Door County Sheriff's Investigator Mark Winkel.
But the jury was deadlocked, and to the shock of many, the trial ended in a hung jury. Devastated by the decision, nobody was about to take this lying down.
Alisha's mom Sherry Anicich was on a mission of her own.
"Never again did I ever want a parent, a friend, family to sit in a courtroom and hear alcohol being excused for anything," Sherry tells Crime Watch Daily. "So the very next day we woke up and we had a meeting with all of Alisha's friends and family, and that's when we started lobbying to change this law."
"When I met Sherry and interviewed her, she told me about this whole effort and she just said 'I don't want anybody else to be able to use this defense,'" said Ziezulewicz. "She took the tragedy of a mother losing her child in such a violent way and channeled all that energy into this campaign to convince lawmakers to change this law."
And her hard work paid off. In an unbelievable feat, Sherry Anicich got the voluntary intoxication law banished from the books in Wisconsin, and in 31 other states
"I don't know how she did it. I don't know where she found the strength. I don't know how I would have gotten out of bed every morning after suffering such a loss, and yet she did it," said Mark Winkel.
But in a cruel twist of fate, it did not apply to Cooper's trial. Cooper's voluntary intoxication defense was grandfathered in: He would be able to use that defense again in his second trial.
But would yet another jury buy it?
Almost a year later, trial number two. During jury selection, Sherry writes an impassioned letter to the district attorney.
"I said 'Please go up there and fight like this is your own daughter,'" said Sherry.
Jurors heard testimony from Brian Cooper, and in this trial, from wedding guests describing how inebriated he was or wasn't on the night he killed Alisha. After about a week, the case went to the jury.
"Within an hour we had our verdict," said Winkel.
Guilty on two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the murders of Alisha Bromfield and her unborn child.
"I think I cried for 30 minutes," said Sherry Anicich. "I couldn't even stand up. I was shaking. This man will never, never hurt anybody again."
Brian Cooper was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison.
Sherry Anicich, through her incredible heartbreak, wants others to learn from their tragedy.
"I wish that girlfriend would have pressed charges, because maybe he could have gotten the help that he needed then," said Sherry. "Stand up and make a difference. You can help another family not go through the pain and the nightmare that our family is going through still."
To honor their daughter -- Alisha's parents have started an organization called the Purple Project. Each year the organization sponsors a young single mother for the entire first year of her baby's life, giving not only financial support but also emotional support.