The show “Evil Lives Here: The Monster Inside Him” on Investigation Discovery shows how Vernetta Cockerham went through a terrible tragedy but used it to fight for all victims of domestic violence.
It’s an inspirational story about a mother who lost her only child, Candice Cockerham, and fought the city and the system to make things better for other victims. Then who is Vernetta Cockerham? let’s find out
Who is Vernetta Cockerham?
Vernetta Cockerham was born in 1969 in the town of Paterson, New Jersey. She was the youngest of three sisters and her paternal grandmother, Marie Edmonds, raised them all from an early age because their parents could not provide them with a stable home. When the girls were old enough to go to school, Marie moved with them to a small North Carolina town called Jonesville. Marie was a nurse at a nearby nursing home. Marie took her grandchildren to church on Sundays and cooked canned vegetables for them as they grew up.
Marie was the one who taught Vernetta to stand up for herself and fight. This lesson stuck in her mind so much that she later fought the system and tried to change it. When Vernetta turned 14, she moved to Newark, New Jersey to meet her mother. She then moved to Paterson to live with her father and attend high school. Kevin Baker, a linebacker, was Vernetta’s student the summer before her sophomore year. They both quickly fell in love and she became pregnant in the middle of the school year.
Vernetta was 15 when she had Candice in Jonesville. She then moved back to Paterson and married Kevin, who was 18 at the time. Richard Ellerbee, who used to date Kevin’s sister, told Vernetta that Kevin was cheating on her. Vernetta divorced Kevin because Richard, who was 13 years her senior, became one of her closest friends. She finished school and worked for the Paterson Police Department in the records room. When Candice was six, her mother and father moved to Jonesville, where the mother worked two jobs while raising her daughter.
Richard moved to Jonesville in 1993 to look for work and began dating then-24-year-old Vernetta. Despite not wanting any more children after difficulties giving birth to Candice, she became pregnant with Richard’s first son, Rashieq, in 1995. Richard got her to marry him in December 2001, although she didn’t want to. This was because she was pregnant with her second son, Dominiq. By this point, Vernetta had begun to see Richard for who he really was, someone who had great trouble controlling his anger.
Vernetta was abused at home every day, so on July 4, 2002, she had Richard arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. But Richard was soon released on bail, and the abuse continued. She called the police more than once and had him arrested more than once. She even got a restraining order against him, but Richard didn’t stop. He continued to follow her and harass her. He even broke into her home, leaving threatening letters and digging shallow graves around her to scare her.
Vernetta kept complaining and did everything by the book, but Richard was never in prison long. All of the violence and harassment ended when Richard punched and killed Candice on November 12, 2002, and nearly killed Vernetta with a knife. Three days later he set himself on fire.
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Where is Vernetta Cockerham today?
Vernetta’s injuries took a long time to heal, but by November 2004 she was back on her feet and suing Jonesville and two police officers for wrongful death. After fighting in court for 5 years, she reached a settlement with the city council in June 2009 and was awarded $430,000. She said, “It’s been a long time coming, but this is going to help a lot of people, so it was worth the wait.” Right now, domestic violence laws are getting tougher and I love being a part of it. The settlement means to me that I hope to bring service and change to Yadkin County.
Through the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Vernetta continues to help people who have been abused in the home. Rita Anita Linger, the Coalition’s executive director, said: “What really struck me about Vernetta was that she went straight into advocacy mode, helping other victims and looking for systemic gaps and ways to fill them.” Vernetta has been working in the Senate to pass legislation that would require arrests for those violating restraining orders. She also continues to help victims of domestic and sexual crimes.
Evil Lives Here is an American true crime documentary series that began January 17, 2016 on Investigation Discovery. This 60-minute true crime show features an interview with a member of the killer’s family in each episode.
In November 2002, 17-year-old Candice Cockerham died in Jonesville, North Carolina. The Evil Lives Here: The Monster Inside Him program on Investigation Discovery tells the sad story of her death. The incident is a reminder that the country’s court and law enforcement systems sometimes put victims of domestic violence at risk and let perpetrators get away.
The teenage girl’s death had to happen so her mother could challenge the state legislature and sue the city police for negligence. We can give you more information, including the name of the person who did it. Why don’t we look at this?
The reason Candice Cockerham died
Candice Willina Cockerham was born on August 18, 1985 in Jonesville, Yadkin County, North Carolina. She is the daughter of Vernetta Cockerham and Kevin Baker. When she was 6 years old, her mother and father separated. She and her mother moved back to Jonesville from Paterson, New Jersey. Candice was one of the few African American students at Starmount High School in rural North Carolina. She was also a very friendly teenager who had no trouble making friends.
The 17-year-old Starmount High School senior had a meeting with an Army recruiter because she wanted to serve her country. On November 19, 2002, Candice’s mother dropped her off at the library to study for her upcoming job interview. But that day, police found her dead in the downstairs bedroom of the home in downtown Jonesville where she lived with her mother and two stepbrothers.
Candice’s mouth and nose were covered with thick tape, and an electrical wire looped around her neck was also reinforced with tape. She had been beaten and choked, her jeans were torn down, and her hands and feet were tied. The autopsy report states that she died of asphyxiation and blunt force trauma.
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Who Killed Candice Cockerham?
Police didn’t have to look for the killer because they already knew who it was: Candice’s stepfather, Richard Ellerbee, a Paterson carpenter who used to date Kevin’s sister. A few years after Vernetta and Candice moved to Jonesville, Richard also moved there and the two began dating. They married in 2001. Vernetta quickly found that Richard found it difficult to control his anger and that he had a history of hurting and abusing her. The two children she had with Richard are named Rashieq and Dominiq.
After having difficulties giving birth to Candice, rumor has it that Vernetta has decided not to have any more children. Vernetta had complained to the police several times about Richard’s physical abuse, but each time he got off easily. She also had a court order against him for harassing her at work and following her around town. Despite being told not to bother Vernetta, Richard continued anyway. She said Richard broke into her home, left threatening letters and called her many times to harass and threaten her.
Vernetta says Richard dug graves for her and her children across the street from her home. Although she kept telling the police that Richard was guilty, he was never jailed for long. Instead, he was always released on bail. But Vernetta was glad when he learned that he was going to prison on November 12, 2002 because there had been so many complaints against him. Retrieving her child from the library, she was shocked to see that Candice had already gone home.
Driving to the house, Vernetta was shocked to find that her ex-husband’s husband was hanging on the door lock and the door was left open. As she ran to the door, Richard came at her with a knife. Richard had already beaten, cut and choked her before she could escape and run to the Jonesville police station near her home. Vernetta fell outside the door, and the police immediately helped her while sending others to her home. Candice Cockerham’s body was found there without Richard.
How did Richard Ellerbee die?
A neighbor told police the last time they saw Richard Ellerbee, he was running down the street with a paper bag in hand. On the way north to New Jersey, Richard stopped at a supermarket. On November 22, 2002, someone saw him buying an empty gas can at a Kmart store and filling it up at a nearby gas station.
Police said Richard went to a gazebo in Paterson’s Eastside Park, where he doused himself with the can and started a fire. Two young men saw what was happening and informed the police. When the police got there, they found Richard’s burned body. He was in his mid-40s at the time.
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