Siblings Connie and Butch Cooksey enjoyed an idyllic small-town childhood in Lebanon during the 1950s and ’60s. Their father Charles Cooksey ran a popular country store on Highway 70, while their mother kept the home fires burning.
But tragedy struck in the summer of 1969 when Butch, not quite out of his teen years, was killed in what was presumed to be a hit-and-run accident.
Now, some 40-plus years later, the cold case has been resolved, and Connie Cooksey Minick shares the tale behind her brother’s death in A Tooth for a Tooth: The Butch Cooksey Story.
“This book should never have had to be written, but there has been so much interest and so many questions asked by many people over the years,” said Minick. “The interest increased dramatically after Butch’s case was reopened, thus I’ve attempted to answer those questions and to share what it was like for my family all those years of not knowing what really happened to Butch that fateful night.
“We could never have dreamed that 40 years later, we would go through it again when his case was reopened. That meant an exhumation, an autopsy, another funeral and burial, the anxiety, the court hearing and finally facing the one who was responsible for all of our heartache, a man that we had known most of our lives.”
Minick describes the book saying, “It is a 40-year-old cold case of intriguing mystery, of my teenage brother’s hit-and-run death which ultimately proved to be homicide. I take readers from our childhood through the eventual conclusion of the crime.”
As for her choice of title, a phrase from the Old Testament, it came from the gruesome tale she and her sisters heard about their brother’s killer possessing some of Butch’s teeth in a box, which he showed on rare occasion.
Minick said it was easy digging up old wounds but pushing through strong emotions, the first-time writer tells the story of her brother’s short life, but also shares the story of the Cooksey family. She dwells not only on the darkest days of his death, but she also reminisces of gentler days as they grew up in a typical Southern home of the mid-twentieth century in a small town where folks shared many common experiences from shopping Saturdays on the square to going to the county fair to enjoying cake walks at school fundraisers.
The crime would never have been solved without the dogged legwork of local lawmen former Sheriff Terry Ashe, Chief Deputy Larry Bowman and current Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan.
The book features more than 50 photographs and a map of Highway 70, which shows the route Butch followed the night he died and other key locations relevant to the story.
“I knew that reopening his case and writing this book wouldn’t bring Butch back. It was something that I needed to do. It had to have a finish, an end,” said Minick. “I got that, it brought the ugly dark secrets to the light. Those needing to be exposed have been exposed.
“That has brought me the most peace. I can live with that—and so will they have to live with that.”
A Tooth for a Tooth: The Butch Cooksey Story should resonate with anyone who grew up in the South, while the mystery of what really happened to the title character proves a gruesome tale of what can happen when evil actions rule the night.
Minick lives with her husband, Tommy, on a small farm outside Lebanon, between the Bellwood and Tuckers Crossroads communities. The place, which they affectionately call Whitehaven, is where they reared their own children, and is not far from the house where she and Butch grew up in the 1950s and 1960s.
Minick will sign copies of her book at the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce on the square from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 7 and at Cooksey’s Market on Highway 70 from 2-4 p.m. Dec. 7.
The 120-page hardback, priced at $20, is available at Cooksey’s Market, 4721 Carthage Hwy.; Custom Color, 1016 W. Main St. in Lebanon; and on the Internet at toothfortooth.com.