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Archive for Sunday, September 26, 2010

Convicted murderer moving forward

September 26, 2010

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The 30-year-old front page headline asks the question: “Murder or suicide?”

Today, the subject of that article, Kathleen Cobb, wants to focus on the present and the future, not the past.

But Cobb, 53, says she knows the past will always be with her even though she says, “I’m not the same person.”

Cobb, who grew up in Lawrence, served 16 years in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Henry Davis, a Lawrence resident.

It was a sensational case in 1980 — one that focused on drugs and friendship and drew national attention over the question of assisted suicide.

Cobb maintained that she was helping in Davis’ wish to kill himself. A jury, however, said it was murder.

Changing in prison

Fast-forward to the present, and Cobb has recently returned to her hometown and is working as a case manager with the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, where she helps people get to their doctor’s appointments, receive financial assistance and, in general, manage their lives.

While in prison, she said, she took advantage of every opportunity she could to get more education, counseling and work.

“I knew I needed to change,” she said.

She earned an associate’s degree behind bars, and after being paroled in 1996, she moved to Colorado and enrolled in Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Mary Lou Van Voorhis was her instructor there in an American Indian women’s class.

“She was an excellent student,” Van Voorhis said. Van Voorhis was impressed with her inner strength and spirituality. “She motivates people in her quiet way. She’s a listener and also participatory. She was cut out to be a social worker,” she said.

Van Voorhis nominated Cobb for an outstanding student award, which Cobb won. “She overcame a lot of obstacles,” Van Voorhis said.

After getting her bachelor’s degree in social work, Cobb got a master’s in the same subject at Colorado State University.

She then moved to Wyoming where she worked at a small community mental health center as a licensed social worker.

Cobb returned to Lawrence this year, saying she wanted to be near her aging parents; her father, Robert Cobb, is a former executive vice chancellor at Kansas University.

Clashing opinions on licensure

This summer, the state Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board heard her request for a masters social worker license in Kansas.

State law says the board can refuse to issue a license if the person has been convicted of a felony and the board feels the person “has not been sufficiently rehabilitated to merit the public trust.”

The board was divided. In that meeting, Cobb told board members she has thought extensively about what happened 30 years ago.

“I’m not blaming drugs and alcohol, but that was part of it,” she said. “I know now that that was the most severe and biggest mistake I could ever make, and from that time until now I have tried to atone for that,” she said.

The social worker committee of the board recommended against granting the license.

Board member Ron McNish, a psychologist, agreed with that recommendation. “This was first-degree murder,” he said.

McNish said he wouldn’t expect the state to license a doctor or nurse who had been convicted of murder, and because social work can be a “life-saving” occupation, the same rules should apply to social workers.

But Richard Maxfield, another psychologist on the board, said, “It seems to me that Miss Cobb made a terrible mistake many years ago, for which she has paid a very big price, and she has tried to rehabilitate herself, and from what I can tell has done so, successfully. She’s an asset to society at this point.”

The board voted 5-3 to grant her a masters social worker license, once she passes the required exam, but attached a number of conditions that filled nearly four pages. She must be supervised in her work, she must be evaluated to see if she needs further mental health services, she must submit to random drug tests, and she cannot work with clients who are severely depressed or suicidal.

Cobb says she has no problem with the conditions.

“I’ll do what I have to do, to do what I want to do,” she said.

A troubled youth

When Cobb was younger, she was heading for trouble. In 1977, she was convicted of various theft and burglary charges and was incarcerated for nearly a year. Today, she describes her former self as a know-it-all, angry youth who should have listened to her parents.

In 1980, Davis and Cobb were close friends, both 22-year-olds and both heavy drug users, according to reports. Cobb said she thought of Davis like a brother.

But according to testimony at the time, Davis had a suicidal side.

Davis told Cobb he wanted to kill himself because he had had a premonition that he would be in a car crash that would result in a long and painful death. His premonitions had a way of coming true, Cobb said. He was also in debt to some dangerous people, she said.

His plan was to overdose on cocaine and if that didn’t work, the backup was to use a gun. He wrote a suicide note. He wanted Cobb to help him commit suicide.

On the night of Feb. 27, 1980, Davis and Cobb pulled off the side of a country road southwest of Topeka.

Cobb administered two doses of cocaine to Davis, but Davis didn’t die. He went into convulsions.

Cobb panicked. She said she hoped Davis would die without suffering further. She tried to suffocate him. He quieted down. Then she screamed, “God, please forgive me,” and shot him in the back of the head. A coroner later testified that Davis was probably still alive when he was shot.

After Davis’ death, Cobb gave herself up to police and confessed what happened.

At her trial, Cobb said she helped Davis overdose and shot him “because he had asked me to do it and I was only trying to do what he wanted.” But the jury found her guilty of murder and she was sentenced to life in prison with the first possibility of parole after 15 years.

Cobb appealed her conviction, saying the jury should have been allowed to find her guilty of assisting a suicide, which carried a maximum five-year sentence.

But the Kansas Supreme Court rejected her appeal, saying “Davis did not destroy himself. It is possible Davis may have assisted Cobb in destroying himself, but the actual destruction was performed by Kathleen Cobb.”

Today, Cobb sounds like many people who return to Lawrence to live after a long absence. She complains about the humidity and traffic congestion.

But unlike others, she said she knows she will be attached to one event that happened a long time ago.

She turned to social work, she said, because she has had a lot of help in her life and wanted to give back and help others. She said her past drug problems have helped her relate and counsel people who are struggling with addictions.

“I believe that everyone can change. They just need a little help,” she said.

Comments

IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

HUD Kansas City Regional Office 400 State Avenue Room 507 Kansas City, Kansas 66101-2406

Gene Lipscomb - Deputy Regional Director Phone: 913-551-5462 Fax: 913-551-5469

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

Then also I am curious and concerned as to how housing authority tenants feel about Miss Cobb, as an employee of the LDCHA, having access to their information.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

But the one thing I don't understand is why Scott Rothschild's article didn't talk about all the other (many) convictions.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm thinking that this entire thread needs to be transmitted to HUD's regional office in Kansas City, Kansas, and probably also to their Inspector General's office in Washington, DC.

I have both addresses.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

In just a minute I'll e-mail the rest of what the JW has deleted.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

...but attached a number of conditions that filled nearly four pages. She must be supervised in her work, she must be evaluated to see if she needs further mental health services, she must submit to random drug tests, and she cannot work with clients who are severely depressed or suicidal.

Are there just no alarm bells going off here?? Have the standards for social work been lowered to zero so that Miss Cobb may be accommodated?

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

Artichokeheart

I deeply appreciate your kind words of support, but as you know I am "deep in enemy territory." As such, I am wide open to retaliation. But again, thank you.

As for "needing treatment," I don't know, maybe, but during my childhood on into my late 30s the mental health system and a very psychotic family member along with a very violent family member of mine ran my life, which had always been against my will, and they ran it completely into the ground. When I took my life back two incredibly surprising things were discovered: 1. Overnight I stopped having problems with drinking and the law. however, 2. my physical health was badly damaged. By that I mean the stress of years of "forced treatment" and "family life" had been destroying my immune system. As I began to run my own life my way, or the right way, I have had zero problems by comparison with the past. That's been the case now for 14 years.

I want people to know that abuse doesn't stop when a person "gets help." All that the mental health system has done is make abuse into a business.

The problem they're having with me is that there are no problems, hence, they aren't making any money off of me. And all I have to say them is "too bad."

Much to my deep dismay I have been brought to the realization that I cannot repair the damage to my life that was done prior to 14 years ago.

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Amy Heeter 3 years, 6 months ago

Indusriver does have a vast amount of knowledge as it is related to the workings of the Lawrence Douglas County Housing Authority. While Indusriver's approach is rarely sugar coated there is basis of fact involved in statements made. I think the JW staff might consider asking questions for clairity from Indusriver rather than damning. On the point of Indusriver "needing help" Well that could be true since it is not uncommon for those who have been systemized to need help, but I believe Indusriver has some good points and should not be dismissed so readily.

I tend to agree wth he concerns of both bearded gnome & rbwaa. There is a standard for those who work with people and that standard should not be compromised for safety reasons. Now I am not saying that a person cannot make a mistake or two in their life, however I think murdering another compromises one's ability to work with populations. Beyond that I have met K.C. and to be quite frank, she is not that swift. I knew there was something about her that rubbed me the wrong way and now I know my instinct was right on. I believe the Lawrence Douglas County Housing Authority has made a grave error in judgement as to the safety of their participants. I feel the Lawrence Douglas County Housing Authority has a obligation to anyone who may work with K.C. to notify them as to her conviction and further I feel that if a particiapant is uncomfortable working with K.C. after learning about it that those participants should be reassigned to another case manager.

I think it is just dandy that some former classmates of LHS are supportive of K.C., However I know a few who will not be approaching her with congrats at the upcoming reunion in October.

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sherbert 3 years, 6 months ago

Wow, it sounds like this woman has done everything and more to better herself and move in a positive direction. How can everyone be so cruel, she can probably be more compassionate in her job than someone who has never struggled with adversity. Give her credit for repaying her debt and trying hard to rise above it.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

KUDOS to the LJW for yet again covering up criminal activity in Lawrence, KS!

You always were better as toilet paper : )

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

In exactly what way do "I" need help? Oh! Becuase exposing fraud and corruption in Lawrence, KS. is viewed as a crime.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

None of the tenants knew about this until the story broke yesterday.

The above 4 posts are the ones the JW deleted.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

Barbara Huppee has been made aware of the questionable and criminal conduct at the housing authority.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

JW -

A newspaper is not suppose to decieve the public in order to protect its special interests, yet you do exactly that.

FYI: A newspaper is supposed to inform the public.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

I suspect she was hired because some people have compassion and understanding.

Larry, I believe competence and a clean record are job requirements.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

Who is her boss? Ms. Hurpee?

No. Her boss is Carrie Lindsey. Kathleen, or KC as she likes to be called, is employed by the Resident Services Office of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority.

Carrie Lindsey is the Director of The Resident Services Office and her boss is Barbara Huppee who is the executive director of the housing authority.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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IndusRiver 3 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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mdrndgtl 3 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Larry Miller 3 years, 6 months ago

Welcome back Kathy. I knew you as a child and saw you loose your way. I'm glad you found your way back.

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bearded_gnome 3 years, 6 months ago

the socialwork committee recommended against licensing her.

so, why did the board go ahead???

this is not just an issue of Cobb and her story. ljworld's article is very poor and one sided in this! the licensing process is also there to protect kansans, and to protect the meaning and validity of all licensed mental health professionals' licenses.

whether she is rehabilitated isn't really that important overall.

if you wouldn't license a doctor after doing time for first degree murder, you shouldn't license a social worker.

she going to have contact with anyone who's potentially suicidal? yes that's the one condition there. but in real life she'll have "social worker" tacked on to her name and she will interact with potentially suicidal people. being called a "social worker" she is assumed to have competence and character appropriate for assisting people with mental disorders.

no. if this decission can be appealed, it should be.

where she helps people get to their doctor’s appointments, receive financial assistance and, in general, manage their lives.

"manage their lives?" oh, or to manage the Housing Authority's waiting list by helping some people end their existences? after all, many suffer from life long poverty and the mental and physical effects of poverty. so isn't she already coming into contact with potentially suicidal people now? of course she is.

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grtnrse 3 years, 6 months ago

Proud to be Kathie's friend then and and even prouder now! Rock on Kath!

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ResQd 3 years, 6 months ago

Back then, I knew both parties who were involved. It was hard times for those of us trying to fit in. Many of us turned to drugs as a way of coping with it, me included. I regret those years, and have thought many times of what my life would have become had I stayed involved with the drugs. Most of us grew up, went to college, had families and have never been involved again. I wish you the best, Kathy!

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kef104 3 years, 6 months ago

Kathleen, welcome back. Drugs can screw people up. I am glad you conquered those problems and are able to help others in need, including those closest to you. A long abandoned past is not nearly as important as what you make of the future. Good luck.

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Amy Heeter 3 years, 6 months ago

Wasn't Mr. Davis a minister? I mention that because in the '25 years ago today' Lorna Anderson was the subject.

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