Murder Confession Revives Decade Of Grief -- Inmate's Admission Digs Up Old Wounds

For more than 10 years Thomas Barlow's family was nagged by questions over who broke into their house one morning in 1984 and brutally killed the North Seattle man.

Was it someone they knew or someone still in the neighborhood? And most importantly, why?

During the same span, the killer, Darrell Cook, sank deeper into his aberrant lifestyle, committing crimes until he eventually wound up in Walla Walla Penitentiary on a 27-year rape sentence.

Cook, 36, tried to answer the questions and his own need for accountability yesterday when he serenely pleaded guilty to the murder in King County Superior Court.

Seattle Police were without leads or suspects when Cook approached prison officials near Christmas. He explained that God has saved him, and owning up to his crimes is a small price to pay.

"I didn't come here to bargain," Cook said. "I came to try and give this family some measure of justice. God spoke to me and said now that I've taken away your bitterness and pain, what about the people you've hurt? This isn't about me. This is about the family whose husband and father I killed. It's about them knowing the what and why behind it."

Barlow's sister-in-law, Carolyn Nelson, said the family appreciates knowing some of the answers, but the admission dug up wounds they worked hard to bury.

"I don't see anything good from what he's done," Nelson said. "He killed a totally innocent person who wouldn't hurt anyone. What I appreciate is knowing he spends the rest of his life behind bars."

Cook lived near the Barlow home and was walking to a bus stop the morning of Sept. 19, 1984, when he saw Barlow drive away. Cook decided to burglarize the home and slipped in an unlocked door.

He was rummaging through the house when Barlow came home suddenly. Cook says he tried to get out a sliding door, but couldn't figure out the lock.

The two men met suddenly on a stairway landing and Cook knocked Barlow down a flight, where the older man lay dazed and injured. Barlow, a 59-year-old former Puget Sound Naval Shipyard employee, was found dead by his wife when she arrived home from work that afternoon.

Cook said he had walked around the house and waited about 15 minutes, weighing his options, wondering if Barlow could identify him. Cook eventually decided he'd have to kill him. He stomped on the man's throat three times.

An autopsy determined Barlow was asphyxiated. King County Medical Examiner Donald Reay said Cook's account is consistent with the cause of death.

After the killing, Cook went to Northgate and filled out job applications. In the following years, he committed crimes: robbery in 1986, burglary in 1987, theft in 1988 and finally the 1993 Snohomish County rape for which he is serving time.

Last year, when he admitted killing Barlow, he also confessed to three rapes and an assault.

"I would welcome it if the family could forgive me, but I can't expect them to. I'd understand 100 percent if they told me to fry in hell."