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11 Investigates | Surviving a Serial Killer: A deep dive into the most notorious killing spree in Toledo history

40 years after Anthony and Nathaniel Cook committed a series of brutal rapes and murders, victims, families, the lead detective - and a killer himself - speak out.

Brian Dugger

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Published: 11:44 AM EST February 17, 2020
Updated: 12:47 PM EDT June 5, 2020

A changing landscape can trick a memory over a 40-year period.

"I think it was over here, but I'm not sure," retired Toledo police Detective Frank Stiles says, peering over a bridge at the water below. "Yes, it was here, but I think there was just a pipe there before."

Almost 40 years ago, the body of Connie Thompson was discovered by two young teens as they were sledding near the Langenderfer/Bancroft culvert in Lucas County. A medical examiner would later determine that the pretty, 18-year-old redhead was stabbed 43 times and raped.

Stiles was the lead investigator at Thompson's murder scene. After the medical examiner's ruling, it was apparent to Stiles that the teen's murder bore eerie similarities to an attack that happened on May 14, 1980 - eight months earlier. In that attack, Sandra Podgorski and her boyfriend, Thomas Gordon, were abducted on Toledo's Utica Street and driven to an area near where Thompson's body was found.

Credit: Toledo police
Authorities investigate the scene where Thomas Gordon was killed and Sandra Podgorski was attacked by the Cook brothers on Rabb Road in Lucas County.

When Gordon tried to escape, he was shot and killed. Podgorski was raped, then she was stabbed multiple times with an awl - the same weapon used on Thompson - and left for dead. However, Podgorski survived and was able to tell police her attackers were two black men.

Stiles had no doubt that the killings were linked.

"We knew we were dealing with two people who were cold-blooded killers," Stiles says.

At the beginning of the 1980s, Anthony and Nathaniel Cook terrorized the streets of Toledo over a 16-month period. Police believe Anthony killed at least 10 people, with Nathaniel likely helping him with four of the killings. Their murderous rampage shattered lives and families. Four decades later, those families - and survivors - are still trying to put those pieces back together.

Credit: The Blade
Nathaniel Cook, left, and his brother, Anthony Cook appear before Judge Charles Wittenberg in Lucas Common Pleas Court in the county courthouse in Toledo on April 4, 2000.

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