'Please, Joe, get up': 911 tape recounts discovery of judge's cocaine death

News-DemocratJune 1, 2013 

— With his friend and fellow judge Joe Christ lying unresponsive on the bathroom floor of a hunting cabin, St. Clair County Judge Mike Cook called the Pike County Sheriff's Department's 911 dispatcher at 6:18 p.m. on March 10.

A copy of the 911 audio tape shows that Cook's voice ranged from initial calm to anguish to tears as he struggled unsuccessfully to pull his close friend Christ from the confines of the bathroom and turn him over onto his back to administer CPR.

At one point during the call of about 20 minutes, Cook tells the female dispatcher, "I love him like a brother."

HEAR THE 911 CALL HERE

At 6:47 p.m. the 49-year-old Christ would be declared dead of what an autopsy later showed was cocaine toxicity and sudden cardiac arrest. A vial containing a white powder was found as Christ's clothing was removed during a forensic examination in Bloomington the next day, according to the pathologist's report. The report did not state who owned the vial.

The call begins with the dispatcher asking the location of the emergency.

"It's our hunting cabin. It's on Panhandle Road across from the pump station. The rock road. I think it is 157," Cook answered calmly.

The dispatcher replied, "Okay." She was able to immediately determine the exact address because Cook called from a home phone at the cabin, owned by his family, and the telephone's location had been registered with the 911 service.

Cook: "A friend of mine. We went to the Quail Unlimited dinner last night. A friend of mine here looks like he hit his head in the bathroom and I can't get him to get up."

Dispatcher: "Okay. Is he breathing?"

Cook: "I can't tell, It looks like maybe. I can't get his mouth open."

Moments later, the dispatcher asks:

"And he's been there since last night?"

Cook: "Yeah."

There is no mention during the tape of exactly what the dispatcher meant by "last night," whether it was a question of when Christ might have collapsed or when he arrived at the cabin for a visit. While the coroner's official pronouncement of death was 6:47 p.m. March 11, an actual estimated time of death was not mentioned in the pathologist's report obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat. The banquet Cook said both men attended was the previous evening, March 9, nearly 24 hours earlier.

The autopsy report issued to authorities a few weeks after that 911 call determined that Christ died as a result of cocaine intoxication and that he suffered from serious underlying heart disease, making his heart more susceptible to the toxic effects of cocaine.

The toxicology report, dated March 27, 17 days after Christ's death, showed Christ had cocaine in his system.

Cook, 43, faces heroin-possession and weapons charges after federal agents arrested him May 15 outside a Belleville home, which was the residence of Sean McGilvery, a 34-year-old family friend of the former judge. McGilvery faces federal heroin-distribution charges.

William Lucco, Cook's attorney, did not return a call for comment left on Friday. Cook, who was freed on a recognizance bond and has since resigned his judgeship, is in a Minnesota rehabilitation facility.

Pike County Sheriff Paul Petty, who also is the county coroner, declined to comment.

Also charged as the result of an FBI investigation into the death of Christ is James Fogarty, a St. Clair County probation agent who told federal agents that the day before the trip to the hunting cabin he sold Cook and Christ an "eight ball," or one-eighth of an ounce of cocaine, for $280, according to a court document.

During the 911 call, while an ambulance crew searched the maze of narrow dirt roads in the rural area for the spacious Cook hunting cabin, the dispatcher repeatedly urged Cook to check Christ for breathing and to roll him onto his back so he could start CPR.

When the dispatcher asked Cook if he could see if Christ's airway was obstructed, Cook answered that his "teeth were closed."

"Is that bad? Because I love him like a brother," Cook said. He then began to cry.

The dispatcher repeatedly asked Cook to turn Christ on his back or to pull him from the bathroom so he could render first aid more easily.

Cook responded that he couldn't move Christ because he was too big, weighing 285 pounds, according to the pathologist's report.

"There's absolutely nothing you can do to get him out?" the dispatcher asked.

"Joe! Joe! Joseph! Joey! Joe, get up ... Please, Joe, get up," Cook can be heard saying on the recording.

The dispatcher later asked Cook if there was anyone there who could help move Christ. "No," Cook replied. Cook then tells the dispatcher that Christ's hands are cold.

"His hands are cold. His stomach is not ice cold," Cook said. "Do you think he's going to be okay?"

At the dispatcher's instruction, Cook goes to get a blanket for Christ.

"Looks like he might have fallen in the living room. There's some broken glass in there," Cook says to the dispatcher. "Yeah. It looks like he was stumbling around in the kitchen a little bit."

In the final moments of the call, a male voice, presumably a medical technician, calls out. Cook tells him that Christ is in the bathroom.

"Do you know how long he's been like that?" the unidentified male voice asks.

The tape ends without a recording of what, if anything, Cook answered.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer.com and 239-2570. Contact George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com and 239-2625.

 

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