Car linked to Rachel Cooke case may be tied to persons of interests

Developments in the 16-year-old cold case of Rachel Cooke have led investigators to a new piece of evidence. A white Pontiac Trans AM witnesses say they saw at the scene at the time of Cooke's disappearance could tie three to four persons of interests.

Friday morning, the Williamson county sheriff's office held a press conference discussing the significance behind the vehicle.

Wilco Sheriff Robert Chody said the sports car tied three to four persons of interest. 

"This is one piece of evidence that may or may not break the case. But let me also be clear that this is a significant piece of evidence from our cold case unit that they located. Regardless of the outcome there is a lot of work to be accomplished,” Chody said.

The Williamson County cold case unit recovered the car from the Dallas area.

Chody said his office received a tip about the vehicle at a past media event.

Wilco District Attorney Shawn Dick is hopeful FBI and DNA analysts will find forensic evidence despite how aged and contaminated the car might be. “Anytime you actually have physical evidence to be able to examine that’s a crucial, crucial. In any case and we finally have a piece of physical evidence to examine,” Dick said.

In January 2002, then 19-year-old Cooke was visiting her parents in Georgetown when she went for a run. Witnesses reported seeing her 200 yards from her parents’ home between that morning but hasn't been seen since. The Williamson County Sheriff's Office and Texas Rangers performed massive searches throughout the city and state.

In 2006, a prisoner confessed to the crime but reneged in court pleading not guilty. However, Cooke’s case didn’t begin gaining momentum until 2017 when the FBI joined the sheriff's office and increased the reward money to $100,000. A new cold case unit was also formed by retired investigators determined to solve the case. 

Cooke's mother Janet hosted memorial runs and ceremonies at Cooke’s old high-school to encourage others to keep hope. "I want to do a happy dance you know but I don't want to mess things up I'm scared of it,” Cooke said. “You know I've been on a roller coaster and I've had to kind of learn how to keep things in perspective."

Sheriff Chody said if the car’s evidence doesn’t pan out the department in investigating a number of other leads.  “Those responsible for the disappearance of Rachel Cooke need to take note we will continue to work hard on this case and our goal is to bring Rachel home,” said Sheriff Chody.