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Local News

1960s Joliet family slayer dies in Maine

Albert P. Cochran
Albert P. Cochran

A man who killed his wife and three children 53 years ago in Joliet has died while serving time for another murder in Maine.

Albert P. Cochran, 79, died Tuesday at a hospital near the Maine State Prison where he was serving a life sentence. According to the Bangor Daily News, Cochran's death appears to be from natural causes.

In February 1964, Cochran, then 25, strangled his estranged wife, Patricia Cochran, 19, in their apartment on Campbell Street. Their children — Christine, 3, Christopher, 2, and Craig, 10 months — were stabbed to death and put in a bathtub. Patricia Cochran's body was wrapped in a blanket on the living room floor and her face was covered with a towel. A steak knife was found near the children's bodies.

"I just choked her and choked her," Cochran said at the time, according to The Herald-News files. Cochran also admitted killing the children, but that part of the confession was thrown out on a technicality.

So Cochran pleaded guilty to his wife's murder and was sentenced to a minimum of 50 years in prison. Twelve years into his term, he was released on parole in June 1976 and allowed to live with his parents in Maine.

Five months later, the body of Janet Baxter was found in the trunk of a car in Norridgewock, Maine. The 30-year-old nurse had been sexually assaulted and shot to death. Three weeks after that, Cochran's girlfriend Pauline Rourke, 31, vanished from the trailer in Fairfield, Maine, where she and her young daughter were living with Cochran. Rourke had been scheduled to be interviewed by police investigating Baxter's murder.

According to The Herald-News files, Cochran moved to Florida in the late 1970s and spent nearly 20 years as a free man before DNA testing linked him to Baxter's rape and murder. In 1999 he was sentenced to life in prison.

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