Linda Cooney was in no mood to talk last night when I reached her at home in suburban Las Vegas, Nevada.
Big difference from when we chatted for two and a half hours in a fancy Las Vegas eatery seven years ago – for her only sit down interview ever!
“I felt nothing, no sadness, no remorse,” Cooney told me that day when asked about killing her husband.
Former north Palm Beach County fixture Cooney, 54, now is awaiting her second trial on charges involving gun violence. She’s accused of shooting her eldest son Kevin Cooney, 30, in the neck during a dispute in June, paralyzing him.
That would barely have made news hadn’t Cooney faced the death penalty here in 1992 when she shot her husband dead in front of the two young boys at home in Juno Beach.
The killing riveted locals as it fueled debates about domestic violence. Court TV couldn’t resist the lure of a young, pretty socialite killing her well-known, rich lawyer husband, Jim Cooney.
The identify of the killer was never in doubt. Her frame of mind was. Linda said she wanted to protect herself and her boys from their abusive dad. Witnesses said she was a scary lady with a mean, violent streak.
The Palm Beach County jury believed her. She was acquitted.
Linda Cooney may have owed her freedom to Kevin, the son she is accused of shooting five months ago. Kevin, a clean cut young man, was 11 when he was asked to testify in 1992. His recollection that Jim Cooney had a knife when he was killed helped sway the jury.
Linda Coney then moved to Vegas with Kevin and her youngest son, Christopher, to start anew.
When I sat down with Linda and Kevin, who was then a University of Nevada Las Vegas student, she seemed till bitter at having been ostracized by her north Palm Beach County clique.
Cooney was struggling financially when I saw her last. She couldn’t find a job in a booming economy, and the family was almost done going through the $1 million trust-fund that the boys received at the dad’s death.
She volunteered for Republican Party campaign, as did Kevin. Weeks after our interview, the two were scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C., to attend George W. Bush’s second-term swearing in.
Here is the rest of the story, published Dec. 26, 2004 by The Palm Beach Post:
“This (Las Vegas) is a good place to start over,” Linda Cooney said between bites of jumbo shrimp. “It’s transient. A lot of people are running from things. Nobody here knows about my past. No one asks. I don’t tell.”
Cooney says she’s become an efficient yet unassuming volunteer for all things Republican. She described how she has been attending political fund-raisers at the homes of moneyed locals, including crooner Wayne Newton, and the GOP national convention in August.
By all observations, and that’s backed up by public records, Cooney doesn’t seem to be as well off now as she was with her husband, a lawyer. She and the two sons – Kevin is now 23 and Christopher, 21 – live in a two-story, $200,000 home in the middle-class Rampart neighborhood of Summerlin, a ‘burb 30 minutes from the Strip.
They drive modest cars, and Cooney says the boys have to work several jobs to make ends meet. Both, she says, are scholarship students at University of Nevada Las Vegas.
The $1 million trust fund?
“Gone,” Cooney said, adding that she didn’t get a job because she wanted to raise the boys and continue cashing the Social Security checks that came after her ex’s death. “We bought the house, a couple of cars, paid for moving expenses, some medical expenses and a lot of legal expenses. I was told in 2000 by a judge here that there was no money left.”
What’s life like at home? Cooney said it revolves around the boys. They never talk about that fateful night.
“What is there to talk about,” she asked. “I shot a guy who was going to kill me. I felt nothing. No sadness. No remorse.”
Incidentally, Kevin and Christopher both own a gun collection, including the .357 Magnum that their mom used in the killing. Kevin said both usually pack heat.
“What happened with my mom gave me a lot of respect for guns,” Kevin said. “It saved our lives.”