That's the verdict family and friends of 21-year-old Alisha Bromfield dread. Bromfield, a Plainfield resident, was more than six months pregnant when she was murdered after attending a wedding with a friend in Door County, Wisconsin.
That friend — 36-year-old Brian Cooper — was convicted last month of sexually assaulting Bromfield after she was dead. Prosecutors alleged that Cooper, also of Plainfield, was so enraged at Bromfield's refusal to rekindle a romance with him that he strangled her, killing her and her unborn daughter. The baby, who was not Cooper's, was to be named Ava Lucille.
What jurors couldn't decide is whether Cooper is guilty of the other charges he faces: Two counts of first-degree intentional homicide. The jury failed to reach a decision after asking the judge for the legal definition of the word "intent," along with seeking clarification regarding a Wisconsin legal clause regarding intoxication.
The hung jury means that Cooper will have another day in court; a second trial is slated to begin in October.
Before it does, Bromfield's friends and family are working to change a law they fear could set her killer free.
Bromfield's mother, Sherry Anicich, has launched an online petition asking the Wisconsin legislature to change a statute that allows a defendant to argue that they were so intoxicated, they could not distinguish right from wrong and could not form intent.
"Alcohol cannot be an excuse for murder!," Anicich said in a letter to Wisconsin lawmakers. "... My daughter was everything to me ... I still can't believe she's gone and that I will never see her beautiful face again, hear her laughter or see that smile that lights up a room. I wake up every day and think about her fighting for her life and her daughter Ava's life. I can’t stop thinking about how scared she was, how her head was beaten and how she couldn’t breathe."
In a taped interview, Cooper told police he had been drinking at his sister's wedding, and then later at the resort where he and Bromfield were staying. On the recording, he tells police he thought about killing her and "snapped" when she refused to watch the TV show "24" with him. In a 9-1-1 call he made the day after the murder, Cooper tells a dispatcher "I did," when asked who killed Bromfield, adding "there's no good reason" for the crime.
But in court, Cooper claimed only to remember "bits and pieces" of the morning Bromfield died, and said he did not recall making the 9-1-1 call.
Anicich family friend Christine McGovern said she doesn't believe Cooper's memory is faulty, or that he was too drunk to intentionally commit murder.
"I saw the taped confessions," she said. "He remembered so much." In a letter to the Wisconsin legislature, McGovern recounts some of the things Cooper related in his taped conversations with police.
"Brian Cooper admitted to squeezing Alisha's neck as hard as he could. He wanted her dead," McGovern wrote. "Alisha had internal brain damage from Cooper banging her head. He remembers struggling off of the bed and continuing to strangle her. He remembered Alisha pleading for her baby Ava’s life, [saying], 'Think of the baby.' He recalled he didn't stop squeezing as hard as he could until her tongue came out. He then confessed to removing all of her clothes and his so he could see her naked one last time."
Changing the law
Bromfield's family and friends hope to persuade Wisconsin lawmakers to repeal the statute allowing intoxication to be used as a defense to criminal liability. Click here to read Anicich's letter to legislators and view the Change.org petition.
McGovern said Alisha's family is hoping to gather local support behind their cause.
"What we're hoping is that people from Plainfield can sign this, and the more attention we get to it, the more influence we can have," she said.
Bromfield's family is hoping for a different outcome at Cooper's second trial.
"[The first trial] was never a trial to see if Cooper committed these murderous acts, but a trial to see if he was too drunk to form intent," Anicich wrote in her letter to Wisconsin lawmakers. "Although he used his level of intoxication as a defense ... I NEVER imagined that any level-headed individual could find Cooper was too drunk to form intent ... Being drunk is no excuse for murder."
Bromfield was a 2008 graduate of Joliet Catholic Academy. She also attended Western Illinois University.
Cooper, now convicted of sexually assaulting Bromfield, remains in custody. His new trial is scheduled to start in October. His former attorney, Shane Brabazon, withdrew from the case in June, and an assistant state public defender is now representing the accused killer.
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