Did a cop hire a hitman to murder his wife the day after Christmas?
Late Boxing Day 2007, Detroit, Michigan. Fairy lights were twinkling in shop windows. Families were home, watching festive films. Meanwhile, Sergeant David Cobb, 38, and his wife Rose, 47, had ventured into the bitter cold for pharmacy supplies. But their shopping trip was about to take a tragic turn… While David got out of their minivan to go into the pharmacy, Rose waited in the passenger seat. Suddenly, a shadowy figure smashed her window with an iron bar.
The man was wearing a ski mask and had a gun. He reached through the shattered window and held it to Rose’s head. She screamed and tried to get away, but was trapped by her seatbelt. Four shots rang out. Rose Cobb slumped in her seat, blood streaming from her head. Murdered at Christmas…
Had the killer been after her handbag? No-one could make sense of it. Her family was devastated. Neighbours remembered her as a ‘compassionate woman’.
David wrote a letter for her memorial service: As I look over the gift of our marriage, I am overwhelmed by the memories of the wonderful times we shared together. Your quiet manner, patience and understanding made it easy for me to love you.
Married for over seven years, friends and family thought they were happy. But was Sergeant David Cobb hiding something?
Following another, unrelated investigation, detectives arrested Vincent Smothers, 27, in April 2008. Smothers made his money as a hitman. While being questioned over one murder, he confessed to a string of others. ‘I don’t have a profession,’ he admitted. ‘I kill people for money.’
Over two years, he’d executed criminals and drug dealers. But he told police how one victim had haunted his conscience. Rose Cobb. Smothers claimed to be the man who’d pulled the trigger that Boxing Day. His motive? Shockingly, he said Sergeant David Cobb hired him to do it. He said the respected police sergeant had promised him a share of $10,000 to get his wife out of the picture. Why?
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Smothers explained he’d first been approached by a friend in the summer of 2007. Said the friend had asked him for a gun for his mum’s boyfriend, but Smothers told him he didn’t sell guns. He said months later, the friend returned with a different question: How much would he charge to kill someone? The ‘dude’ who’d wanted a gun now wanted someone murdered.
Smothers then told police he’d agreed to meet his friend’s mum’s boyfriend, who he knew only as ‘Dave’. Sergeant David Cobb, of the Detroit Police Department. He said Cobb wanted his wife dead because he was having an affair, and was also after her life insurance money. Smothers said, despite his shady past, he’d felt conflicted. His pregnant fiancé had begged him to turn his life around. He was still in two minds right up until 9pm on Boxing Day 2007.
Cobb had apparently told Smothers he’d call his mobile, pretending to order a takeaway. Then he’d drive to the pharmacy. ‘When I’m going in, you go in and kill her,’ he’d allegedly instructed, warning Smothers to get rid of the gun afterwards. Smothers told police that, despite his misgivings, he felt he couldn’t say no – Dave was a dodgy cop…could bring him down. Smothers claimed to have regretted the killing instantly. ‘Even before I pulled the trigger, it was different,’ he said, later. ‘I thought about how wrong it was, and I was fighting myself about whether to do it.’ He knew he’d killed an innocent. Claimed to have not killed anyone since.
The day after his confession, in April 2008, officers arrested Sergeant David Cobb. Folk were shocked. He’d always seemed so devoted to his wife… But Cobb protested his innocence. Said Rose’s killing was nothing to do with him. He was eventually released after prosecutors found insufficient evidence to charge him. But he was suspended from the police. Five months later, before the investigation concluded, Cobb was found dead in a park. He’d hanged himself. A grieving husband… Or a guilty conscience?
In 2009, at Wayne County Circuit Court, Vincent Smothers, 27, pleaded guilty to eight murders, including Rose’s. He was jailed for 50 to 100 years. While Smothers will die in prison, the mystery of David Cobb’s role in his wife’s murder, if any, may never be uncovered. The only certainty is Christmas will always be a painful time for Rose’s poor family and friends.