Investigation Discovery’s documentary ‘Evil Lives here: The Monster Within Him’ focuses on Vernetta Cockerham’s tragic experience and how she used it to help domestic abuse victims worldwide. This is the inspiring story of a mother who lost her only daughter, Candice and fought against the system and city to make the system better for all victims. Who is Vernetta Cockerham then? Let’s find the answer.
Vernetta Cockerham: Who are you?
Vernetta Cockerham was conceived in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1969. Vernetta was the youngest of three sisters, and their paternal grandmother Marie Edmonds raised them all from an early age. Their parents were unable to provide a stable home. Marie, a nurse in a local nursing facility, moved the sisters to Jonesville, North Carolina when they were old enough to go to school. Marie raised her grandchildren conservatively, taking them to church every Sunday and canning their vegetables.
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Marie was the one who taught Vernetta how to stand up for her rights and fight. This lesson was so well instilled that she would continue to fight against the system and try to change it. Vernetta moved to Newark, New Jersey, to get to know her mother. She then moved to Paterson, New Jersey, where she lived with her dad and attended high school. Vernetta was a math tutor and had Kevin Baker, a linebacker, as her student the summer before her second year. They had a brief romance that led to Vernetta becoming pregnant halfway through her school year.
Vernetta was 15 when she gave birth to Candice Jonesville. She then moved back to Paterson and married Kevin, who was then 18. Kevin’s brother, Richard Ellerbee (then her boyfriend), informed Vernetta about his cheating. Vernetta was grateful to Richard, 13 years her senior, for telling her that Kevin was cheating on her. Richard became a close confidant. After finishing school, she began working in the records department of the Paterson Police Department. Candice was 6 years old when her mother and son moved to Jonesville. There, she managed 2 jobs while raising her daughter.
Richard moved to Jonesville, Tennessee, in 1993, looking for a job. He began dating Vernetta, who was then 24. After complications with Candice’s birth, Vernetta decided she didn’t want to have children and was forced to get pregnant by Richard’s first son Rashieq. Richard made her marry him in December 2001 after she became pregnant with Dominiq’s second son. Vernetta began to see the true nature of Richard, who was prone to anger management problems.
Vernetta was a victim of domestic abuse daily at home. Richard was arrested on July 4, 2002, on charges of felony attack with a deadly instrument. Richard was soon released on bail, and the abuse continued. Richard continued to harass her, and she made numerous complaints to the police. He was detained several times and even placed under a restraining order. Richard continued to harass and stalk her and even broke into her house to scare her. He left threatening notes and dug shallow graves in her yard.
Vernetta filed more complaints, followed the law and was eventually arrested by Richard. All of the violence and harassment culminated in Richard beating, killing Candice, and stabbing Vernetta until she was almost dead on November 12, 2002. Vernetta then self-immolated three days later.
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Vernetta Cockerham is Where Are You Today?
Vernetta’s injuries took some time to heal, but she got up and filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Jonesville in November 2004. After five years of legal battle, Vernetta reached a settlement with Jonesville in June 2009. She was awarded $430,000. She stated that although it took a while, the outcome was worth it for the people who would benefit. It is happening now. I love being involved in strengthening domestic violence laws. I hope to be able to implement services and changes within Yadkin County; that’s the settlement to me.”
Vernetta continues to support domestic abuse victims through North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Rita Anita Linger, the coalition’s executive director, said that “… “What really impressed me about Vernetta was that she immediately got into advocacy mode, being a support to other victims, and looking for systemic gaps and ways to fix them.” Vernetta also pushed a bill through the Senate that would allow for arrests of people who violate restraining orders and continues to aid victims of domestic and sexual crime.