The youngest sister of slain Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole said she was relieved that suspected killer John D. Williams had been found alive Saturday afternoon, but is far from being able to forgive him.
Sherryl Cole Sirois, 48, is the youngest sibling and only sister of Cole, a Somerset County sheriff’s deputy who was allegedly gunned down earlier this week by 29-year-old Williams. Williams was found alive and arrested on the fourth day of a nationwide manhunt Saturday afternoon.
“It’s just a sigh of relief. After I heard he’d been caught, I could breathe,” Sirois said after learning that Williams had been apprehended. But it pales in comparison to the depth of pain over the loss of her brother. “It’s just amazingly painful,” she said.
“God says to forgive, so I know I need to. At this point, I don’t know,” she said. “He stole this man’s life. He stole my mom’s little boy, he stole my sister-in-law’s love of her life, stole his children’s daddy, and he stole the grandkids’ Bampie.”
After learning the news of Cole’s death earlier this week, Sirois said her mother, Gloria Cole, had a minor heart attack on Friday and was taken to the hospital. Cole is Gloria’s third child to die, said Sirois, who has one remaining brother, Tom Cole.
“I saw the lights go out in my mom’s eyes when they told her,” she said. “We’re not designed to lose our children. She kept begging God to take her. ‘God can raise him from the dead,’ she said. All I’m doing is crying for days,” said Sirois who was at hospital with her mother when reached by phone Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve lost my brother, again, and the way it happened is going to haunt me.” Her brother, Fred, died suddenly at his home in 2013, and her brother, Billy died in 1981, when Sirois was 11.
Gloria has been having trouble sleeping since her son died, Sirois said, and after learning that Williams had been found, she finally was able to sleep. But she remains too sick to attend the family-only visitation service planned for her son late Saturday afternoon.
“I truly believe she’s suffering from a broken heart,” Sirois said. “God, I miss him so much.”
Desperate to offer her mother any comfort, she’d recently found and saved a message from Cole on Gloria’s answering machine for her to listen to whenever she wanted.
In the days since his death, Cole has been hailed by friends and colleagues as a kind, even-tempered officer, masterful at calming tense or dangerous situations.
“For a guy that would go into a hostile situation and be as small a man as he was, he could talk down the giant that was standing there,” Canaan Fire Chief Troy Bowden told the BDN Wednesday. The two knew each other for 20 years, he said. “He could disarm the whole situation if he had that chance to talk, to get the conversation going.”
“Anytime he could defuse a situation without having to use excessive force, that’s the way he would do things,” Bowden said.
Cole was known to be gently authoritative years before he began working in law enforcement, Sirois said.
Years ago, when her two children were young (they are now near 30 years old) and she was a single mom, whenever her kids disobeyed her, she would say, “I’m going to call Uncle Gene.”
He was able to discipline, but he “was kind and always fair” — skills that later made him into a strong police officer, she said.
Of the people who Cole interacted with on the job, “He would always say, ‘They’re people. Just because they made a mistake or a wrong choice doesn’t make them bad,’” Sirois said.
The depth of anger Sirois said she feels for Williams is strange. “It’s such a weird emotion. I wanted him to suffer, I really did. I wanted him to hurt, but I’m not that type of person.”
Any reprieve Sirois said she felt knowing that Williams has been found quickly dissolved into “dread, because I’ve got to get ready to go and say goodbye to Gene.”
Earlier this week, she uncovered a sheriff’s badge Cole had given to one of her grandsons. She said she remembers how excited her grandson was when Gene gave it to him. “You would’ve thought it was a million dollars,” she said.
Like law enforcement officers across Maine who’ve covered their badges with a strip of black, the family stuck a black piece of tape on the badge in Cole’s memory.
“I just hope he doesn’t become a cop,” she said.
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