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    Thursday, June 08, 2023

    Cooke verdict brings relief to victims' families

    Rae Giesing, mother of Gregory Giesing, left, is comforted by her cousin Karen Cummings after the guilty verdict handed down in the trial of Ian Cooke outside the Superior Court in New London Wednesday morning April 21, 2010. Cooke was found guilty of the 2006 murders of Gregory Giesing and Derek Von Winkle.

    The families of murder victims Gregory Giesing and Derek Von Winkle are celebrating this morning's guilty verdict, which ensures life imprisonment for Ian T. Cooke.

    A New London jury found Cooke, 22, guilty of two counts of murder, capital felony and possession of a sawed-off shotgun. Judge Stuart M. Schimelman is expected to sentence him to "natural life," or life in prison without the possibility of parole, on June 4.

    The victims were stepbrothers who lived in separate apartments in a house in Groton, and many of their family members have attended the dozens of court appearances Cooke made following his arrest on May 27, 2006.

    Von Winkle’s father, Bill Von Winkle, had declined to comment on the case until moments after the verdict.

    “Eighty-something times in court, the smile never left his face,” Von Winkle said. “No smile now.”

    Brian Giesing, father and stepfather to the victims, noted the absence of his wife, Linda West Giesing, who died without having seen her son's killer brought to justice. "I wish she had been here today," Giesing said. "This isn't closure, but it probably comes in a close second."

    Giesing was thankful for the jury's work and for the work of the state.

    Rae Giesing, mother of Gregory, said she could hardly talk she was so overcome.

    "He got what he deserved, and Greg made sure it was him," she said.

    According to court testimony, Greg Giesing had stabbed Cooke before Cooke killed him with a sawed-off shotgun in Giesing's second floor apartment at 1021 Pleasant Valley Road North. Cooke had apparently killed Von Winkle first.

    Cooke's DNA was found on the green cargo pants that Giesing wore when he died and on several other items, including the gun that Groton Town police recovered shortly after the murders.

    Cooke's father, John Cooke, was disappointed by the verdicts. He had embraced the theory that somebody else was responsible for the men's deaths.

    "There is a lot of evidence that was not brought in," he said.

    Matthew Numemaker, foreman of the jury that listened to two weeks of evidence and found Cooke guilty at the beginning of the third day of deliberations, said it was a difficult and emotional process for the panel of nine men and three women.

    "The jury finally came to a consensus this morning on the third day of deliberation," he said.

    Prosecutor Lawrence J. Tytla said he was grateful for the work of the Groton Town Police and the Eastern District Major Crime Squad.

    "They were very thorough," Tytla said.

    Defense attorney John T. Walkley could not immediately be reached for comment.

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