Convicted murderer to receive death penalty

Man was charged with murdering two Mercer students in 1995

On Feb. 21 Andrew Allen Cook will be sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of two Mercer students.
Cook was convicted in a 1998 trial of murdering 22-year-old Grant Hendrickson and 19-year-old Michele Cartagena.
At approximately midnight on Jan. 2, 1995 Hendrickson and Cartagena were parked at a small peninsula at Lake Juliette in Monroe County just north of Macon. Cook fired upon the vehicle 14 times with an AR-15 rifle and then fired five times with a nine millimeter Ruger handgun.
Both victims were hit multiple times. Cook did not know Hendrickson or Cartagena. Cook was 20-years-old at the time.
Hendrickson was a Macon native and was a fourth year student majoring in physics and electrical engineering. A member of Pi Kappa Phi and SGA senator, he attended Tattnall Academy in Macon where was an honor grad.
Cartagena was from Midland, Ga., and majored in physical therapy at Mercer. She was a member of Alpha Delta Pi where she was spirit chairperson. She attended Spencer High School and was valedictorian of her class.
“The University community is greatly saddened by this unexplained and senseless crime,” said former Mercer President R. Kirby Godsey in an address to the student body on Jan. 5, 1995.
The case went unsolved for almost two years. During that time NBC’s “Unsolved Mysteries” re-enacted the crime for television audiences in September of 1996 before Cook was caught.
Cook was arrested in December of 1996. His father and FBI agent John Cook was responsible for bringing Cook to the authorities.
John Cook unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the district attorney to accept a guilty plea for a sentence less than death. At trial, he testified for the state in the guilt-innocence phase and for his son in the sentencing phase.
John Cook had been in the FBI for 29 years and this caused several media outlets to broadcast the events of the trial on a national scale.
“When John had to go on the stand and testify, that’s when Connie Chung and 20/20, Readers Digest, and several other big time media outlets got real involved in it,” said Charles Weston, senior lecturer at Mercer. “The fact that this honorable law enforcing office had told the truth on the stand and it ended up putting his son on death row, it’s not an everyday case.“
The Grand Jury indicted Cook on Feb. 17, 1997, and the state filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty on Feb. 27, 1997. The trial took place from March 9-19, 1998. On the last day of the trial, the jury convicted Cook and recommended a death sentence.
Cook was found guilty of two counts of malice murder and two counts of felony murder and was sentenced to death for one of the murders.
Cook made multiple attempts to appeal. He filed a motion for a new trial on March 23, 1998, which was supplemented on June 4, 1998, and denied six days later. Cook filed a notice of appeal on July 31, 1998, and the case was docketed Aug. 19, 1998. The case was orally argued later that year.
In 2002, a lower court overturned Cook’s death sentence but in 2008 the Georgia Supreme Court reinstated the death sentence for Cook.
On Oct. 26, 2007 John Cook came to Mercer to share his personal story of the ordeal.
“The interesting thing in this case, that cannot be denied, that cannot be ignored, the interesting thing in this case is the fact that the state may never have convicted Andy Cook had his daddy not been a man of incredible moral character,” said Weston. “There are plenty of people who would have gone and never told anybody.”
Details of the investigation appeared on Investigation Discovery Network’s “Unusual Suspects” series in 2010. The series features cases in which perpetrators were found to be people least expected to be criminals.
Andrew Cook is to be executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison.