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The Woman Who Was Bludgeoned By a Claw Hammer—And Survived

David Gerard thought his criminal past and his girlfriend, Frankie Cochran, were dead. He was wrong.

After being beaten within an inch of her life, 31-year-old Frankie Cochran spoke for the first time in two hours: “David Gerard did this to me!”

Police had found Cochran lying in a pool of her own blood, her death waylaid by a disgusting mixture of icy water and manure. A dairy farm employee living in small-town Washington, she'd been milking cows when Gerard, her mercurial boyfriend and co-worker, attacked her with a claw hammer. At least five vicious head blows were followed by a final stab to the neck before Gerard, satisfied with his "revenge," left her for dead. His constant paranoia had convinced him she'd been unfaithful.

But while Cochran was gravely injured, she was still alive, breathing, and crucial to an investigation that would eventually link Gerard to other crimes. In fact, Detective Lane Houmons would quickly realize that David Gerard was not just a one-bludgeon-wonder—but a monstrous, rage-fueled serial killer.

Read on for an excerpt from Blood Frenzy, Robert Scott's true crime book about David Gerard's multiple rage killings.

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Blood Frenzy

By Robert Scott

Blood Frenzy

By Robert Scott

Lane reached Clark’s Dairy at around 11:00 P.M. and Deputy Wells was still protecting the crime scene. The sky was cloudy, and the temperature was in the 40s. Lane put on his rubber boots, grabbed his camera and shoved several extra rolls of film into his jacket pocket. He also grabbed a handful of rubber gloves and put them into a pocket on the back of his jumpsuit.

Deputy Wells escorted Lane to the milking parlor, where the assault had occurred. There were no cows in the milking parlor now, but Lane could hear them mooing in a holding pen nearby. Lane later noted, “Most of the seventy cows had not been milked, and they were not happy.”

On one side of the parlor was a sliding wooden door, and past the door was a concrete ramp leading down into a holding pen, which was now empty. On the floor Lane spotted a large streak of blood running down the manure-covered ramp. Some blood was spattered on a wall of the milking parlor a few inches above the floor, and at the base of the ramp were several blood-soaked towels. There were also a pair of rubber boots partially covered with manure sitting upright, side by side.

Amongst the blood and cow manure, about midway down the ramp, Lane spotted something glittering in the beam of his flashlight. He picked it up to examine the object, and noted that it was an earring in the shape of a heart, which appeared to be gold in color. On one side of the ramp there was a handrail, and on the other side he found a clear vinyl apron that had blood smeared on it. There were also medical wrappers and debris scattered on the floor near the apron, tossed there by medical personnel who had arrived on scene to try and save Frankie’s life.

Lane photographed the scene from various angles, trying to avoid stepping in important areas, and also trying to keep from sliding in the slippery manure. He then stepped back into a holding pen, cow manure up to the ankles of his rubber boots, to look over the whole scene. The night air was cold enough that he could see his breath, and the cows were mooing louder and louder, obviously distressed at not having been milked.

The one overall thing that Lane noticed from the scene was that there had been a great deal of violence connected to this ex-couple. As he said later, “There was a rage—an explosion of violence. I had seen this before, at another crime scene, at another time. I stood there silently in the cold, and the crap, and the crying cows, and stared down at the ramp leading into the milking parlor. Suddenly it hit me—an epiphany, just like you see in the movies. David Gerard. David Gerard! I knew that name. I knew it from another very violent scene where four people had died!”

(...) After they left Clark’s Dairy, the detectives began looking into the relationship between David Gerard and Frankie Cochran. David and Frankie had shared an apartment in Aberdeen, but recently they had a falling-out. They had both worked at Clark’s Dairy, she as a milker and he as a handyman. A week before the hammer assault, the detectives learned, Frankie and David had both arrived to work at the dairy in Gerard’s Ford Escort. While they were sitting in the car, parked by the milking parlor before the workday had begun, they had gotten into an argument. David, who was paranoid and very jealous about Frankie, accused her of having an affair with Eugene Clark. Frankie told him that was ridiculous, and she was tired of his accusations and irrational jealousy. She then told him they were through.

Without any warning, David grabbed Frankie and pulled her out the driver’s-side door of the car. He grabbed her so violently and unexpectedly that her slippers fell off onto the passenger-side floor mat. As soon as she was pulled out the door, Frankie knew he was going to hit her. She struck first. She was holding a travel mug full of hot coffee, and before David was able to land a punch, she threw the coffee in his face and upper body. Then she stiffened, waiting for the blow to fall.

In total surprise to Frankie, David didn’t swing at her or say anything. Instead, he slowly and methodically walked to a nearby toolshed and reemerged from it, holding a claw hammer. Frankie said later, “He had a wild look in his eyes, like he was demented.”

David held the hammer up over his head and slowly walked toward her. When he was only a few feet from her, Frankie stood her ground and spat out, “Go ahead, if you’re man enough!”

Against all expectations Gerard stopped in his tracks, lowered the hammer to his side and quietly walked back into the toolshed. He put the hammer back on a nail on the wall, walked by Frankie without a word, got into his car and left. Eugene Clark, who had witnessed the whole thing from a distance, called 911 and reported the incident.

Incredibly, David Gerard was by then making a 911 call of his own. He drove to Oakville and phoned the sheriff’s office, reporting that he’d just been assaulted by his girlfriend, Frankie Cochran. A deputy responded to this call and met David Gerard at a convenience store in the area. He showed the deputy the coffee burn marks on his chest and his lip, which was still bleeding. The blood had run down onto his shirt and pants. Lane noted later, “It was obvious to the deputy that Gerard was trying to make himself look more like a victim, since he had made no attempt to wipe blood from his chin. And it appeared that he had chewed on the inside of his lip to make it bleed.” Nonetheless, the deputy took photographs of Gerard’s “injuries.”

Meanwhile, another deputy contacted Frankie Cochran, who was still crying about the incident. The deputy took photographs of the coffee stains on her blouse and where coffee had sloshed when she threw the mug’s contents onto Gerard. Once all the facts were in, it was David Gerard who was arrested in violation of the Washington State domestic violence act, and not Frankie. Gerard was booked into the county jail, and he appeared before a district court judge the next day. After that process was completed, Judge Thomas Copeland issued a No-Contact Order (NOCON) upon Gerard, which meant he could not be in the same vicinity as Frankie Cochran. Then Judge Copeland set a trial date, and Gerard promised to appear.

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  • David Gerard nearly killed Frankie Cochran (left) with a hammer taken from a tool shed (right) in 1999.

  • Photo Credit: Kensington Books

After David Gerard was released from jail, he was contacted by Eugene Clark and told that he was fired. Seething with resentment for not only losing his girlfriend, but his job as well, Gerard was in an angry and violent mood that next week. Frankie moved out of the apartment, which she had shared with Gerard, to a relative’s residence twenty miles away, in the town of Elma. Even though she was now away from Gerard, she had the uneasy feeling that he was stalking her. Worried and on the alert, she had her uncle drive her to work for her protection.

On the day she was assaulted, Frankie was asked by Eugene Clark if she could work a double shift. His cows needed to be milked twice daily, and the milker who generally worked the evening shift couldn’t make it that day. Frankie normally only worked the morning shift, and she quit the morning milking on March 17 at about 1:00 P.M. Frankie, however, said that she could work that evening as well, and a friend of her uncle’s, named Tom Scott, drove her back to Clark’s Dairy for the evening shift.

On the way there, Scott stopped his vehicle at the Del Cris convenience store in the town of Elma. After purchasing a few items, Scott drove Frankie to Clark’s Dairy and let her off there for the evening milking shift. Then Scott left.

What was interesting to Lane and the other detectives was that a surveillance camera at the Del Cris market showed David Gerard entering the store at approximately 5:45 P.M., right around the same time that Tom Scott and Frankie Cochran were there. Gerard was wearing a white T-shirt and a pair of dark sweatpants. The clothes he was wearing then were different from the ones he was wearing when arrested at the 7-Eleven store in Aberdeen a few hours later, after the attack. Gerard purchased a soda at the store and then left. The detectives surmised that he went from there to Clark’s Dairy to try and kill Frankie with the hammer.

One of the interesting sidelights of all of this was that David Gerard phoned Frankie’s uncle at around 7:30 P.M., allegedly looking for Frankie. By that time he had probably already assaulted Frankie with the hammer and was trying to set up an alibi that he didn’t know where she was. Just like his “driving the Loop” alibi, which had been scuttled by the landslide, this alibi was ruined by the fact that Gerard had been caught on videotape at the Del Cris market. He didn’t have to phone Frankie’s uncle to know where she was. He had just seen her at the market.

As Lane went through the collected evidence, he was looking for items of particular interest that he could send on to the state lab. It was already obvious that the clothes that Gerard had worn to the milking parlor, where he assaulted Frankie, had been thrown away, perhaps never to be found. Lane went through a red nylon wallet Gerard had carried in his pants pocket and it was stuffed with paperwork. Amongst all the papers Lane found a small photo of Frankie and her three children. These were children by two previous marriages.

Lane also found a small photo of a woman named Patty Rodriguez and her two sons. Next to it was a small newspaper article, which Lane carefully unfolded and read. It was about Patty Rodriguez’s funeral service in 1995. This set off immediate alarm bells in Lane’s head. He had already seized an enlarged photograph from the trunk of Gerards’ car, and that photo depicted Patty Rodriguez and her two boys. These individuals had all died in a house fire in 1995, and Lane knew all about the case, having been part of an investigation on it at the time. It had been ruled an accidental fire, but even then, he’d had his doubts. The one interesting thing occurring to Lane now was that David Gerard had been Patty’s live-in boyfriend in 1995. In fact, she had just broken up with him before she, her sons and her mother had all died in that fire. And Lane and Detective Parfitt had questioned David Gerard in relation to that 1995 fire. Although Gerard had acted strangely after the fire, Lane and Parfitt had chalked that up to grief on Gerard’s part at the time.

Related: Unsung Horrors: 10 Underrated True Crime Books

Lane realized that in order to have the blood samples already seized from Gerard’s vehicle analyzed, he had to get blood samples from David Gerard and Frankie as well. Frankie by now had been moved to Providence Centralia Hospital, closer to Grays Harbor County. Lane went to see her there, and the nurse drew a sample of Frankie’s blood and put it into a tube. Once again, Lane spoke with Frankie about the assault. Not only was she still alive, but some of her memory had returned as well. Frankie told Lane about moving fourteen cows into the milking parlor on the day she was assaulted, and she was getting them hooked up to the milking machine. Suddenly the sliding door opened, she turned around and just caught a glimpse of David Gerard standing behind her with a hammer held over his head. Gerard didn’t say a word. He brought the hammer down toward her head with a savage blow, and Frankie managed to raise her arm upward. The hammer blow shattered her forearm. Before she could react again, Gerard swung the hammer and hit her on the right side of the head. Frankie collapsed to the floor, and recalled being struck in the head at least three more times. Then, as if to finish the job, Gerard either pulled out a knife and stabbed her in the neck with it, or used the claws on the hammer to stab her neck. Assuming she was now dead or soon would be, Gerard left the milking parlor without saying a word.

From that point on, Frankie slipped in and out of consciousness. She did so for nearly two hours. One thing she recalled was telling herself she was not going to die on that filthy, bloody milking floor. Her memory was, of course, fragmented, and she was receiving a lot of morphine in the hospital. Frankie needed it. She had excruciating pain from head to foot, and at times it felt as if she were being stretched on the rack. The morphine had its side effects, however. Frankie was haunted by frightening morphine-enhanced dreams—dreams in which she was still in grave danger.

Frankie told Lane of having several nightmares of David Gerard coming through her hospital room window to finish the job. In the dreams he would sneak in, unseen by the staff, and once again have a hammer in his hand. This time he was intent on finishing the job he had begun in the milking parlor. Lane reassured her that Gerard was in jail now and he wasn’t getting out. Lane Youmans also said that he would do everything possible to put David Gerard away for a long, long time.

Want to keep reading? Download Blood Frenzy by Robert Scott today.

Blood Frenzy

By Robert Scott

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Featured photo courtesy of Kensington Books and Todd Quackenbush / Unsplash 

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Created on 03 Apr 2018

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