The Disappearance of Rachel Cooke

The Disappearance of Rachel Cooke
Rachel Cooke, 19, went missing in the Georgetown area on Jan. 10, 2002. Source.

When a nineteen-year-old girl went missing while visiting her hometown, rumors began to swirl. Police thought she ran away, but her family knew that something was wrong. It wasn’t like her to head out and disappear without calling. As the investigation began to unfold, several accusations would be made, but to this day, Rachel Cooke is still missing.

You Can’t Go There — It’s Not Safe

We all assess risk differently. What seems risky to some might seem like a casual Tuesday to others. We base our risk assessments on our own comfort levels, our history, details of an encounter, random facts that we know, and our mental health in a lot of cases.

So, we all do it in our own way.

When Rachel Cooke first told her parents that she wanted to move from Georgetown, Texas to San Diego — they were worried.

Her parents stressed about the crime rates in the area, fearing that something would happen to her while she was gone. But, Rachel went on to live a really happy life in San Diego. She even started dating someone.

Then, during a break from school, she decided to go back to Georgetown to visit.

A Trip Back Home

This was her hometown — the place she knew inside and out. Those people were her people — or at least they had been.

So, she returned, ready to enjoy her old neighborhood and catch up with friends or jump into her old habits.

Some things never change — and if there was one thing that Rachel was, it was a runner. She liked to begin her day with a 4-mile run, and she was excited to follow her old high school jogging trail when she went out on January 10th. So, she hung up the phone with her boyfriend, then hit the open road.

Photo by Jozsef Hocza on Unsplash

Unfortunately, she stepped out of her front door and disappeared.

Where is Rachel?

Rachel was supposed to meet up with her family to go shopping later, but when they got home, she was nowhere to be found. She left for her run hours before their return, and they were surprised to find that her purse and personal belongings were all still at home.

It seemed like she never returned home after her run.

Feeling a little nervous, they decided to call her local friend to see if she was there. She wasn’t — and her friend said that they had plans, but she hadn’t heard from her.

Her parents started to worry.

Rachel worked at a local bar every once in a while when she was in town, so they decided to call and ask if she showed up for work. They were relieved to hear that she did, but what they didn’t know was that the person who they asked had confused their Rachel for another one. She never made it to work.

One day later, her parents went to report her disappearance to the police.

The Investigation Begins

Straight out of the gate, Rachel’s family was pretty unhappy with how the investigation was being handled. They believe that police didn’t really take her case seriously — at least not at first.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

The investigators seemed convinced that she likely ran off with friends or her boyfriend — even though the phone record would show her boyfriend was in San Diego when she spoke with him that morning. Her family kept insisting that she would never do that.

While police casually investigated her disappearance, the likelihood of finding Rachel alive really started to diminish. Then, they received some tips and clues.

As far as we know, Rachel’s neighbors were the last people to see her — and what they had to share was fairly disturbing.

They reported seeing Rachel returning home from her run.

She Was Just Right There

The last markers show her as being less than 200 yards away from her parents’ home.

That means that between her being right up the street and her arriving at her house, something must have happened to her — and this is now the main theory. Police believed that someone snatched Rachel up right by her house.

The only question is: who?

At the time, some attention in the investigation fell on a car with teen boys that was seen looping through the neighborhood. It does sound pretty suspicious, but police were able to find the drivers and learned that they were just ditching school.

Police looked at the car, and there was some inconclusive evidence, but ultimately it was decided that these kids were in the clear.

While police continued their search, her family began to conduct an investigation of their own.

The Toxic Ex

A new investigation into her ex-boyfriend began. Rachel previously dated a man in Georgetown, and her family described the relationship as volatile.

During her time back in Georgetown, she told her sister that she saw her ex — and that he made a big, uncomfortable scene.

This happened two days before she disappeared, and it wasn’t his first scene either.

After Rachel broke up with him well before her disappearance, he showed up at her parents’ house in the middle of the night, drunk and demanding to see her.

She wanted the relationship to end, but he just wouldn’t let go.

In the end, the family couldn’t prove anything.

Then, investigators were thrown for quite a twist.

The Failed Polygraph

When someone goes missing, it is normal to look at the people around them. More often than not, criminals know their victims.

So, police had people who were close to her take polygraphs — including Rachel’s father.

When he took his test, police were surprised for a very obvious reason. They asked him if he knew where Rachel was, and he said no.

The system flagged it as a lie.

His rationale behind the lie was devastating.

He said that he strongly felt that he knew where Rachel was — in heaven.

Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash

A Sudden Confession

Four years after Rachel’s disappearance, police made a fairly shocking announcement.

A known murderer, who was sitting in prison, confessed to killing Rachel. He told police that he grabbed Rachel while she was running, killed her using a hammer, and dumped her body out in the Gulf of Mexico.

He seemed like a likely candidate and they had no real reason to question him, so they believed him.

He was set to plead guilty to the crime in court — and Rachel’s entire family cleared their schedules to be in the room — but, then, when he took to the stand, he changed his mind.

Ultimately, rumors came out that he was trying to get preferential treatment from the courts, so he lied — at least that is what was said.

Many people still believe he actually did commit the crime, but they dropped the charges in the end.

Then, An Update

Obviously, everyone was desperate to find Rachel.

Searches were conducted. Police even explored a nearby lake on the off chance that someone dumped her body there. But, there was no sign of Rachel anywhere.

The investigation was basically put on pause until 2021 when police made another big announcement. They were looking for a person of interest who they believed likely had information about what happened to Rachel.

The individual knew Rachel personally and was known to work around horses — but that’s all we know. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, we’ll find out more.

For now, her family is still waiting for answers.