Alleged Arsonist Returns to City

Oliver Bok , Editor in Chief

When a grand jury indicted Robert Coop for arson in 1985, Ronald Reagan occupied the White House, the Soviet Union still existed and Back to the Future topped the box office.

Thirty-one years later, Coop will finally see his day in court.

On Aug. 26, Oberlin resident Doris Jones reported a now 75-year-old Coop for occupying the garage of an abandoned home across the street because she wanted the police to make sure the man was OK.

“I knew he couldn’t stay out there with no food and no water,” Jones said.

What she did not expect was to see police officers lead Coop away in handcuffs. Even more unexpectedly, when the police ran his name through their database, they found a 31-year-old warrant for aggravated arson.

“He was charged 31 years ago,” Lieutenant Michael McCloskey said. “It went to the grand jury. The grand jury indicted him. Then he was scheduled for a pre-trial at Common Pleas Court, and he never showed up to that court date — he fled the state.” He added that he believed Coop had spent much of the previous three decades in Georgia.

Coop now sits in county jail for an alleged arson from 1985, when he was accused of setting fire to the house of Anna Moore, his girlfriend at the time.

Jones said she recognized Coop as the son of a longtime resident of 230 Lincoln Street who died last March. Jones added that Coop did not seem to know his mother had died until she told him.

“To me he was a little disoriented,” Jones said. “He didn’t seem too clear.”

While Jones said she was disappointed with the police for arresting Coop, McCloskey argued that the officers had no choice.

“Once we run the name and there’s an active warrant, we’ve got obligations to take action on that warrant,” McCloskey said.

An unattributed article entitled “Not guilty of arson, man says” published April 25, 1985 in the Oberlin News-Tribune described the circumstances of the alleged arson:

“Coop and Ms. Moore argued earlier in the day and Coop tried to gain entry to the Moore residence at 11:39 p.m. Saturday and a short while later at 12:10 a.m. Police were summoned each time by Ms. Moore to remove Coop from the premises, but Coop was gone when officers arrived on the scene on each occasion. Coop is charged with returning to the East Vine residence at 3:18 a.m. Sunday and setting fire to the home with an accelerant.”

The Oberlin Fire Department listed the damage to the house at 29 East Vine Street as “moderate” at the time, according to the article.

Neither Jones nor McCloskey had any idea why Coop returned to Oberlin after so many years.

According to Rob Bennett, the bailiff in this case, Coop’s pretrial will take place next Wednesday at the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas in Elyria.

Coop’s attorney from the 1985 case, John Haynes, and the Lorain County Prosecutor’s office could not be reached for comment by the Review.

For Jones, the whole incident left a bad taste.

“It’s sad that it turned out that way,” Jones said.