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Billy Cook

William Edward "Billy" Cook (December 23, 1928 – December 12, 1952) was an American spree killer who murdered six people on a 22-day rampage between Missouri and California in 1950–51.

William Cook was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1928. His mother died when he was 5 years old. Soon after, his father relocated the children to an abandoned mine, eventually leaving them to fend for themselves with a few supplies. They were discovered there by the authorities and all the children were placed into foster care except William. A deformed eye and belligerent attitude stopped him being adopted by any family so he became a ward of the state. Cook was eventually placed in the care of a woman who accepted State money to look after him but they had a poor relationship.

He soon drifted into petty crime and was eventually arrested for truancy. At the age of 12 he told a judge he would prefer a reformatory to more foster care. Cook spent several years in detention before he was transferred, aged 17, to the Missouri State Penitentiary. While in prison he assaulted another inmate with a baseball bat.

When Cook was released from prison in 1950 he returned to Joplin to be briefly reunited with his father. He told him his intention was now to “live by the gun and roam.” Cook then drifted to the small desert town of Blythe, California, where he worked as a dishwasher until just before Christmas 1950. In late December he headed east again; on the way he acquired a snub-nosed .32-caliber revolver in El Paso, Texas. 

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