Metro-East News

6/16/2006: Answers possible in slayings: Family asked to come to city hall; news conference called for today

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the Belleville News-Democrat on June 16, 2006

Today may bring some answers as to who killed two elderly sisters and their hairdresser 15 months ago.

Kim Fischer, daughter of murder victim Doris Fischer, said she doesn’t know why the Cooney, Bone and Fischer family members are being summoned to the Belleville City Hall this morning. She said she hopes it is because the investigation into the deaths of Doris Fischer, her sister Dorothy Bone and their hairdresser Michael Cooney has resulted in charges.

“I really don’t know why,” she said. “It’s going to be a very nerve-wracking day — that I am sure of.”

Belleville Police Chief Dave Ruebhausen said a news conference is scheduled at 11 a.m. today at City Hall, but he declined to say it is related to the triple murder.

Doris Fischer, 79, and Bone, her 82-year-old sister, arrived for a hair appointment on March 2, 2005, at Michael Cooney’s home-based salon at 7813 W. Main St.

Within hours of their scheduled back-to-back hair appointments, Fischer, Bone and Cooney were found stabbed to death when another patron arrived for her appointment at 11 a.m.

The day after the murders, Cooney’s Nissan Pathfinder was found in the 900 block of Maple in St. Louis near Wellston, Mo. Police removed evidence from an apartment at 934 Maple after the vehicle’s discovery.

At the time, investigators said the Pathfinder had been abandoned near North Sarah Street and Page Boulevard in St. Louis only a few hours after the killings, which is where a youth and several of his associates stole it.

Samuel L. Johnson, 41, has been called the “prime suspect” in the murders, although he has not been charged. He said he was not involved with the deaths and that police were using him as a scapegoat.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Robert Haida has declined to charge Johnson with the murders because the bloody fingerprint in Cooney’s car and DNA left at the crime scene did not match Johnson’s. Haida has said he must be able to explain that evidence before he can prosecute.

News reports said the bloody print belonged to a 16-year-old boy who had been questioned about the murders. Ruebhausen called those reports “inaccurate.”

Anna Nicole Hobbs, a teen who lived in the same house as Johnson and was engaged to Johnson’s cousin, has said a distinctive hunting knife went missing from her nightstand the day before the killings. She said a Belleville detective told her its unusual blade could match wounds on the victims.

When Hobbs saw Johnson and another man the day after the murders, Johnson showed her a wad of money and said he “messed up.” Cooney was known to keep a large wad of cash.

The next day — two days after the murders — Cooney put down $1,000 in $100 bills on a used car. He returned several days later with another $400 and bought a Lincoln Town Car.

Johnson was convicted last year of kicking in the door of Cooney’s home in December 2003, then lying to police about his name. He is serving an 11-year prison sentence at Menard Correctional Center.

All three victims were prominent Belleville residents. Cooney, 62, was a popular hairdresser whose patrons were usually older. He was also an antique dealer who specialized in estate sales and carried the cash for his business.

Fischer was the widow of Julius Fischer Sr., who owned Jul Fischer Distributing in East St. Louis. Bone was the wife of Belleville lawyer and developer Maurice E. Bone, and her son-in-law is Swansea Mayor Charles Gray.