Were you brought up on Bill Cosby LP records as was Ladyjustice? Do you remember the infamous, “To Russell, My Brother Whom I Slept With?” It was 1968, and the first album recorded in a large venue. That record strikes fear in LJ’s heart when she recalls the refrain, “Don’t Tell Dad. Don’t Tell Dad, Don’t Tell Dad!” Corporal punishment-as the “Big Bad Dad” appeared to be alive and well… and was “acceptable” in those days. The sound effects and deep voice just got louder and louder. Ladyjustice can recall being scared in the same manner only watching the Wizard of Oz with the “Wicked Witch of the East or West.”(There is some controversy whether it was the east or west.) Since LJ is from the East, it must be East, right? Anyway….
However, this blog is not meant to be about nostalgia or fairy tales…. Rather, it is meant to tell the true tale of the passing and senseless murder and surrounding details of his son Ennis.
Ennis was Bill Cosby’s only son…. and “a late bloomer” and extremely well liked by all accounts. [Sources: The New York Times; ABC News; People.com, Wikipedia.org, CNN.com, the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity] In fact, Ennis’ trademark was “Hello Friend” to everyone he encountered.
According to news accounts, Ennis Cosby was cut down in the prime of life at age 27 on January 16, 1997. At approximately 1 a.m. while on a holiday break from his doctoral studies at Columbia University, he was en route to the house of a female friend when his family’s $130,000 Mercedes got a flat tire. [Note: It doesn’t matter whether your car cost $130,000 or “$20 something thousand” like Ladyjustice’s 2003 car… they all get flat tires….] and pulled off the San Diego freeway exit ramp onto the desolate Skirball Center Drive.
Ennis immediately called his friend, Stephanie Crane to come to assist by shining her car’s headlights in his path. Reportedly, the perpetrator, Mikail Markhasev (a Ukrainian born immigrant) and friends Eli Zakaria and Sara Peters initially encountered Ennis while in the midst of changing the tire, asked Cosby, “Hey are you okay?” to which he replied, “Yeah, Everything’s cool.” The three then apparently left to go to a nearby pay phone.
As Crane arrived to assist, suddenly, Markhavsev appeared at her window and ordered, “Open the door or I’ll shoot you.” Terrified for her life, Ms. Crane quickly drove off and then turned around; as she realized that she had left Ennis behind. Ennis was about to give up his money. But, in the interim, he was “not fast enough “and paid the ultimate price… He forfeited his life. Crane returned at 1:28 a.m. and discovered Ennis on the ground in a pool of blood with a gunshot to the temple. Two days later a composite sketch from Ms. Crane’s description was released.
Defense attorney Hall tried to cast doubt saying that jailhouse letters and “bottom dwelling witnesses” who called the Enquirer to try to claim a $100,000 reward for information, dropped off Markhavsev at home, while his accomplices, Peters and
Zakaria returned to the former Bel Air party for drugs and were the “only ones who knew who killed Ennis Crosby.”
Prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney, Anne Ingalls related that this was “a robbery gone bad,” and that Markehasev related in jailhouse letters that, “I shot a nigger… I went to rob a drug connection and obviously found something else.”
Witnesses also related that on the day of the shooting, Markhasev was watching for news accounts and asked for help in recovering the gun in the woods. Markhasev implied to associate Chris So that he had shot Ennis at that time, whereupon Mr. So called the National Enquirer to attempt to collect the reward. The police showed up, they went to the woods, and located the gun. Ballistics tests revealed that the gun was indeed the murder weapon. Accomplices Zakaria and Chang were prosecution witnesses …and also convicted felons serving prison sentences.
In the end… Mikail Makasev was found guilty of first degree murder in the death of Ennis Cosby and was sentenced to life without parole in August 1998.
BUT…..In January 1998 a petition was filed in the Los Angeles Courts to attempt to set aside the verdict based on the claim that another inmate, a David Gomez, forged the letters….
BUT, BUT, BUT… in an unprecedented event termed “unusual, very unusual” by spokesperson for the Los Angeles prosecutor’s office, Sandi Gibbons, Mikail Markasev asked the court to withdraw all of his appeals in an apology/confession letter to the Cosby family. As reported in a February 9, 2001, CNN Justice article, the murderer filed a notice of abandonment” of his appeal. “More than anything, I want to apologize to the victim’s family,” wrote Markhasev. “It is my duty as a Christian, and it’s the least I can do after the great wickedness, for which I am responsible.”
(At the request of the Cosby family, a death sentence was not sought for this defendant.)
The Other Side of the Story- The Life of Ennis Cosby:
Bill Cosby was “Mr. TV,” Dr. Heathcliff Huxstable in the 1980’s sitcom. Bill Cosby wanted the show to be a role model, and is quoted as saying, “I want people, when they watch this show to say, Hey, how did they get those microphones and cameras into my house?’ ‘Portraying a normal household with normal middle class problems…
The Cosby’s had four children, three daughters and then Ennis where they resided at times, on a 265 acre farm in Shelburne, Massachusetts. Ennis had two parents who earned Ph.D.’s in Education from the University of Massachusetts while in their 50’s.
However, despite their overachiever household, Ennis apparently put forth maximum effort but really struggled in high school and barely graduated. Bill Cosby “had a plan” and set out to introduce his son to the world by reading to him, introducing culture- museum and jazz etc. Each night it was something different. However, these efforts failed… UNTIL… a friend suggested that Ennis be tested for dyslexia, while he was attending Morehouse College in Atlanta. Ennis was officially diagnosed in the late 1980’s and suddenly thrived in the only college in the country, Landmark College in Putney Vermont, specifically designed for students with dyslexia!
From the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity
No one is born knowing how to read.
We all have to learn how.
Just about every person starts talking without having to learn how. When you were a baby, just being around people who were talking was enough to get you started talking, too. You didn’t have go to talking school or take talking lessons. Human beings’ brains are just designed to make talking happen almost automatically.
Reading is different, though. No one is born knowing how to read—we all have to learn how. When you read, your brain has to do a lot of things at once. It has to connect letters with sounds and put those sounds together in the right order.
Then it has to help you put letters, words, and paragraphs together in ways that let you read them quickly and understand what they mean. It also has to connect words and sentences with other kinds of knowledge. When you see “c-a-t” on a piece of paper, your brain doesn’t just have to read the word “cat,” it also has to make the connection that “cat” means a furry, four-legged animal that meows.
Why do I have dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a sort of invisible problem. It’s not an illness like chicken pox or a cold. In school your teachers can see you working hard, but they can’t see all the steps your brain has to take to make sense of the words on the worksheet she gave you to do.
Many kids with dyslexia worry that there is something wrong with their brain. That’s a pretty scary thought. Thanks to recent research, though, we have lots of scientific proof that a dyslexic person’s brain is normal and healthy.
When you have dyslexia, though, your brain takes longer to make some of these connections, and does it in more steps. It especially has trouble matching the letters you see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. And when you have trouble with that step, it makes all the other steps harder.
Dyslexia isn’t rare. You might know other kids in your school who have dyslexia, too. Although dyslexia isn’t contagious, sometimes several people in the same family have dyslexia. Older kids and adults can also have dyslexia.
A new way to learn…
|Listening to books on tape or CD while you read along in your own book is one step to make reading better for you.|
It’s actually lucky that you’ve already found out you have dyslexia. The younger you are when you figure out that reading is tough for you, the sooner you—with the help of your teachers and parents—can find ways to learn that make it easier. Even though dyslexia isn’t something you’ll grow out of, there are lots of things your teachers and parents can show you to help you to read better and even to enjoy reading.
In fact, you may have already figured out some strategies all by yourself that help you when you’re reading. Kids with dyslexia often learn to use other skills to help them make sense of what they’re reading or studying. You might already be especially good at:
- Observing—looking for clues in pictures or other kinds of illustrations
- Listening—paying attention to what your teacher is saying or what other kids are reading out loud
- Memorizing—remembering what you hear as someone reads or talks to you
Using creative skills like these is not cheating! They’re great tools that can help you as you learn to read better. Your parents, your teacher and maybe other people at your school, like a reading specialist, can take other steps to make reading better for you. Some of these steps might include:
- Starting you on a reading program that helps you to figure out what sounds make up each word
- Letting you do your work in a quiet place
- Allowing you to listen to books on tape or CD as you read along in your own book
- Letting you do some of your written work on a keyboard
- Giving you extra time to do your work
***Dyslexia was first recognized and diagnosed as a type of learning disability by the World Federation of Neurologists in 1968. Ennis was born in 1970.
Ladyjustice Has a Few Questions: No disrespect meant to the ultra wealthy and educated Cosby parents. However, each of them was earning Ph.D.’s in Education! These weren’t any fake sheepskin “honorary degrees” that are often handed out……
So, why did Bill Cosby concentrate on jazz and not recognize that his son was perhaps dyslexic much earlier? You can’t exactly to jump from an Associate’s degree to a Ph.D. in one swoop. There must have been cutting edge learning going on for several years from the renowned UMass. Was he playing the perfect father Dr. Huckstable at the same time he was earning his degrees running back and forth from Hollywood to the University of Massachusetts? If so, Mrs. Cosby was maintaining the home fires and also earning her degrees and raising her four children in their respective school systems.
A teacher colleague and Ladyjustice’s postulated together that perhaps it was one of the changing developmental milestones of a kid growing up and it just wasn’t noticed with physical, social and language learning also taking place.
Or, let’s face it, it’s not too cool to be the perfect family on TV and admit that your real son has problems. Remember, Ozzie and Harriet, the Donna Reed Show, The Danny Thomas Show, Leave It to Beaver, The Dick Van Dyke Show, anyone???
(To his credit, in his TV sitcom, Mr. Cosby did base his TV son character on his experience with Ennis.)
Ladyjustice speculates that those “perfect family sitcoms” had their share of real life problems too. BUT… again, these parents were highly educated and very wealthy. The fact that it took a friend to suggest testing is curious and very fortunate, indeed! It is all the more tragic as well…
As a new crime victim, Bill Cosby was more than generous in requesting that his son’s murderer not be put to death. He also wanted to “maintain dignity.” At about the same time as Ennis’ funeral, it is unfortunate that “bottom feeder women” came out of the woodwork to accuse him of fathering them. One case was apparently bogus, another was not….
THE GOOD ENDING:
Back to Ennis…. After attending Landmark College in Putney, Vermont , [http://www.landmark.edu/index.cfm] Ennis returned to Morehouse in Atlanta in which his grade point average rose from 2.3 to over 3.5, putting him on the Dean’s List. He mentored other students, graduated in 1992 with a Master’s Degree from Columbia and then enrolled in the Ph.D. program. The Cosby family was overjoyed!
Bill Cosby subsequently established Ennis Cosby Scholarships and the Ennis William Cosby Foundation. A grant enabled the training of 20 teachers in reading instruction to those with learning disabilities for a period of three years. After the 18 month training course was completed, 20 New York City elementary school teachers achieved this specialization in January 2002.
Bill Cosby Quote:
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
- Critic’s Notebook: Bill Cosby Appreciation and Screenings at Paley Center for Media (nytimes.com)
- Bill Cosby Speaks Boldly to Students About Their Choices (fox4kc.com)
- Bill Cosby Enlists Santa’s Staff For A Silent Night (npr.org)
- Beyond What Bill Cosby Said (filterbypass.wordpress.com)