In a story earlier this week, newly retired Maine State Police Detective Brian Strout recalled his 25-year career, spent mostly investigating the state’s worst crimes and interviewing vicious killers.

In the article, written by BDN reporter Judy Harrison, Strout called a couple of the men he encountered “evil,” specifically Jeffrey Cookson, who executed a 20-year-old Dexter woman and the 21-month-old boy she was baby-sitting, and Joseph Albert, who snatched a 19-year-old girl off the street, raped her and bludgeoned her to death with a hammer.

Judy Garvey and Jim Bergin, co-coordinators for the Maine Prison Advocacy Coalition, apparently were offended at the use of the word to describe the two long-convicted murderers.

They wrote they had “deep concern” over the “moralistic term evil.”

They found the term judgmental and “unkind.”

One of the fellows Strout referred to, Cookson or Albert (Garvey and Bergin didn’t indicate which one), “extends his goodwill and support to those around him” and is “deeply changed,” they wrote, and “would not judge others” the way Strout did.

It would appear they are speaking of Cookson, as they noted the nice guy of whom they spoke was now appealing his conviction based on DNA evidence, which Cookson is doing.

Then the pair questioned how apologies might be made to the two poor guys who were maligned in such a manner.

I’ve known Brian Strout for most of his career and if he is reading this column, this is where he will start roaring with laughter.

It’s a well-deserved belly laugh because there wasn’t much comedy involved in Strout’s career. It’s fair to say he deserves a bit of amusement now and again.

I’m thinking Garvey and Bergin’s email provided him some.

To be on the safe side, though, I looked up the definition of evil.

It means profoundly immoral, malevolent, wicked, bad, vicious.

Which part of raping a young woman and beating her head in with a hammer is not covered there, or shooting, execution-style, a young woman and a toddler?

I sat through Cookson’s lengthy murder trial. I watched his demeanor and heard the testimony. I visited the crime scene in a quiet Dexter neighborhood.

Cookson can “extend his goodwill” all he wants from his prison cell.

He’s an evil man. Go back and read the newspaper coverage of his trial, the details and the evidence, and show me this man of such good will.


Garvey and Bergin want Strout and Harrison to apologize for judging, “even the Pope” tells us not to judge, they wrote.

I’m thinking when Cookson made Mindy Gould and Treven Cunningham lay face down on a bed, placed pillows over their heads and shot them both to death, he was passing some pretty serious judgment of his own.

But apparently he’s a changed man now.

Of course we’ll never know what kind of man Treven Cunningham may have become. He’d be just about 16 years old now.

If seeing evil inside those two men is judgmental, unkind and against the Pope’s principles then I’ll gladly hitch myself up to Strout’s wagon and we can ride it together to hell.

Upon sentencing Cookson, Justice Roland Cole said, “We are not dealing with an innocent person here. This is domestic violence at its worst. My view is that this was an execution. Mindy’s death calls for a life sentence, and clearly the circumstances with Treven call for a life sentence and that is the judgment of this court.”

And a good judgment it was.

Some people have earned the right to judge. Some people can truly recognize evil when they see it.

Brian Strout is among them.

No apologies necessary.