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Lindsey Bonistall's parents: Killer's death term 'fair' but 'no justice'

Kathleen and Mark Bonistall, the parents of Lindsey

Kathleen and Mark Bonistall, the parents of Lindsey Bonistall, a White Plains college student murdered May 1, 2005, in Delaware. The Bonistalls called the death sentence given to Lindsey's convicted murderer, James Cooke Jr., "fair." But they added that it hardly heals the wounds of the past seven years. (Sept. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: News12

For the White Plains parents of Lindsey Bonistall, Monday's sentencing of their daughter's killer to death by lethal injection is "fair" but hardly heals the wounds they've suffered for the past seven years.

"For me there is no justice because Lindsey will not be coming home with us," Kathleen Bonistall said outside of the Wilmington, Del., courthouse where James E. Cooke Jr. received his death sentence.

Kathleen and Mark Bonistall had watched in the hushed gallery as a gasp went up through the packed courtroom when the sentence was delivered. The jury members who convicted Cooke, 41, of brutally killing the University of Delaware student in May 2005 and then setting her off-campus apartment on fire held hands and cried as they heard the judge hand down the sentence they recommended in May.

"She was a completely innocent victim of a violent crime," Superior Court Judge Charles Toliver IV said of Bonistall.

Toliver went on to call Cooke's killing of the 20-year-old Bonistall "cruel, violent and sadistic."

Cooke, meanwhile, insisted on his innocence.

"You claim to give me death for something I never done," Cooke said to Toliver. "I never got a fair trial period. You know it and I know it."

Cooke then went on a tirade, calling the judicial system corrupt before he was led away by guards.

In Delaware, there is an automatic appeal to the state Supreme Court in death sentence cases.

Cooke placed Bonistall's body in a bathtub and piled personal belongings such as a guitar on her. He also filled the apartment walls with racist graffiti including "KKK" in a bid to throw police off the track.

Cooke is African-American; Bonistall was white.

Cooke was convicted in 2007 of her murder and sentenced to death.

But that verdict and sentence were overturned by Delaware's Supreme Court, which said in 2009 that Cooke's lawyers had wrongly argued that he was guilty of the killing but suffered from mental illness. The lawyers had not received Cooke's permission to make such an argument.

Cooke was retried this year and convicted again of first-degree murder.

"Nothing changes the fact that Lindsey will not return home with her mom, dad and sister to Westchester County today," Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said in a written statement Monday. "However, the sentence handed down reflects the brutality of her attack and murder."

The retrial was frustrating for the Bonistall family, with Kathleen Bonistall saying the money spent on a retrial could have been better spent forging better prevention programs.

"It begs to ask what are we doing to prevent this type of crime?" Kathleen Bonistall said.

The end of the trial does not mean an end to the pain for the Bonistalls.

"This isn't an end for us," Kathleen Bonistall said. "It's an end to an arduous process where we had to sit and endure lies about our daughter as a defense."


News12 contributed to this story.

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