Investigation Discovery’s ‘Evil Lives Here: The Monster Inside Him’ chronicles the tragic murder of 17-year-old Candice Cockerham in Jonesville, North Carolina, in November 2002. The episode is a testament to how sometimes domestic abuse victims are rendered unsafe by the judicial and police system of the country and abusers are able to get their way. The teen girl had to die to pave the way for her mother to fight the state legislature and sue the city police for their negligence. If you want to know more and the identity of the perpetrator, we’ve you covered. Let’s find out then, shall we?
How Did Candice Cockerham Die?
Candice Willina Cockerham was born on August 18, 1985, in Jonesville in Yadkin County, North Carolina, to Vernetta Cockerham and Kevin Baker. When she was 6, her mother and father divorced and she moved back to Jonesville along with her mother from Paterson, New Jersey. Candice was a very amiable teen who could make friends easily although she was one of the few African-American students in Starmount High School in rural North Carolina.
A senior at Starmount High, the 17-year-old wanted to serve her country and even had an appointment with an army recruiter. On November 19, 2002, Candice had been dropped at the library by her mother so that she could make some notes for her upcoming interview. However, her body was found by the police in the downstairs bedroom of the central Jonesville residence she shared with her mom and 2 stepbrothers on that day.
Candice’s mouth and nose were covered with heavy duct tape, and an electrical cord, reinforced with a layer of duct tape, was found bound across her neck. Her jeans had been pulled down, her hands and feet were tied, and she had been brutally beaten and suffocated. The autopsy report stated her cause of death to be asphyxiation coupled with blunt force.
Who Killed Candice Cockerham?
The police did not have to search for the killer as they knew his identity beforehand — Candice’s stepfather, a carpenter named Richard Ellerbee, who was once the boyfriend of Kevin’s sister back in Paterson. Vernetta and Richard had started dating after he moved to Jonesville a few years later after Vernetta and Candice had shifted there. The two got married in 2001. However, Vernetta soon found out that Richard had anger issues and used to beat and abuse her. She had two sons with Richard, named Rashieq and Dominiq.
Vernetta reportedly did not want any more children after facing complications during the birth of Candice. Facing a barrage of physical abuse, Vernetta had filed several cases against Richard but he got off easy every time. She also had a restraining order against him after he stalked her around town and showed up at her workplace to intimidate her. But Richard could not be stopped even with the restraining order as he continued to harass Vernetta. She alleged that Richard broke into her home and left threatening notes, calling her multiple times to threaten and harass her.
As per Vernetta, Richard even dug graves across her the street from her house indicating that it was for her and her children. She made several complaints to the police but Richard was never imprisoned for long and he was always let off on bonds. However, on November 12, 2002, Vernetta was finally relieved to know that he was to be arrested based on several complaints against his name. When she had gone to pick up her daughter from the library, she was aghast to know that Candice had already set off toward home.
Vernetta drove to the house and was horrified to find the door left ajar and her estranged husband’s keys dangling from the lock. As she rushed towards the door, Richard lurched towards her with a knife. She was beaten, cut, and strangled by Richard before she was finally able to escape and run towards the Jonesville police station near her home. Collapsing in front of the doorway, Vernetta was immediately tended to by the officers as others were sent to her home. They discovered Candice Cockerham’s body but Richard was nowhere to be seen.
Is Richard Ellerbee Alive?
As per police reports, Richard Ellerbee was last seen running down the street with a paper bag by a neighbor. Richard had gone to a convenience store before he drove his vehicle north, towards New Jersey. On November 22, 2002, he was spotted purchasing an empty gas can from a Kmart store and filling it at a nearby gas station.
It was stated by the authorities that Richard then headed towards a gazebo in Eastside Park, Paterson, where he doused himself with the can and set himself on fire. Two young men were witnesses of the incident and they reported it to the police. Officers arrived at the scene to find the smoldering body which was identified to belong to Richard who was in his mid-40s at the time.