Ennis Cosby (bottom) with his father Bill (top)
|Born||Ennis William Cosby
April 15, 1969
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||January 16, 1997
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Cosby Family Cemetery, Cosby Estate|
|Residence||East Side of Manhattan|
|Alma mater||Morehouse College
Teachers College, Columbia University
Ennis William Cosby (April 15, 1969 – January 16, 1997) was the only son of American comedian-actor Bill Cosby and his wife Camille. Cosby, a graduate student and aspiring teacher, was fatally shot by the perpetrator of an attempted robbery in Los Angeles in 1997.
Early life and education
Cosby was born in Los Angeles, the third of five children (and the only son) of Bill and Camille Cosby. On his 1969 television special, Bill Cosby had joked to his then-pregnant wife that the baby "had better be a boy, you hear, Camille?" The character of Theo Huxtable, portrayed by Malcolm Jamal Warner on NBC's The Cosby Show, was based on Ennis. Bill Cosby also wrote situations and conversations that he had with Ennis into the series.
Cosby attended Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, Massachusetts and graduated from George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania. In 1988, he enrolled in Morehouse College, but after being diagnosed with dyslexia, he transferred for a time to Landmark College, which had a specific dyslexia program. He returned to Morehouse and graduated in 1992. In 1995, he earned a master's degree in education from Columbia University.
Although he had performed on stage in high school, Cosby remained a private figure. Cosby aspired to become a special education teacher, having served an internship in special education at a school on Manhattan's West Side. At the time of his death, he was pursuing his doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University and living near his parents' home on Manhattan's East Side.
In January 1997, Cosby was visiting Los Angeles while on a break from school. On the evening of January 16, Cosby was driving on Interstate 405 on his way to visit his friend, Stephanie Crane, when his car developed a flat tire. He telephoned Crane, who drove out to assist him. While Cosby changed the tire, Crane sat in her own car shining the headlights on Cosby to illuminate the area. An armed man wearing a knit hat then approached Crane's driver-side window and ordered her out of the car and threatened to kill her. Crane quickly drove off but returned to Cosby's car minutes later to see the man running away. She then noticed that Cosby was lying next to his car with a fatal gunshot wound to the head. Cosby had been shot in the temple and was killed instantly. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In the weeks following Ennis Cosby's murder, the case was heavily covered by the media and was featured on America's Most Wanted and The National Enquirer. Both offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his killer. Police received over 800 calls with tips that were investigated. In January, The National Enquirer received a call from a man (who later turned out to be a friend of the suspect) that Mikhail Brandon Markhasev, an 18-year-old Ukrainian immigrant, had bragged that he'd shot a black man and that the case was on the news. The caller was contacted by police who gave them information that lead them to Markhasev who was arrested on March 12. After his arrest, police searched his apartment and found the knit cap he was wearing at the time of Cosby's murder and eventually located the .38-caliber gun that was used in a wooded area a few miles from the crime scene. Markhasev was charged with first-degree murder on March 14. The Cosby family requested that prosecutors not seek the death penalty.
Born in Lviv in the late 1970s (1978 or 1979), Mikhail Brandon Markhasev had emigrated to the U.S. in 1989 with his mother. He attended a program for gifted children in West Hollywood, where a teacher described him as well-liked and well-behaved. However, after moving to Los Alamitos, California, in 1992, he began hanging out with a gang and exhibiting racism. In 1995, Markhasev and other gang members attacked two African American men with a knife at a gas station and served six months at a juvenile correctional facility. According to a friend, Markhasev's time in the facility changed him, and he seemed more combative and angrier upon his release.
Markhasev's trial began on June 23, 1998 in Santa Monica, California. The prosecution contended that Markhasev shot Cosby in the head after Cosby moved too slow while Markhasev attempted to rob him. They brought into evidence a letter Markhasev wrote to a friend while in jail in which he called the killing a "robbery gone bad". Two of Markhasev's friends (one of whom was the man who called The National Enquirer) testified that they had gone to a wooded area with Markhasev to look for the murder weapon but could not find it. Markhasev's defense lawyer claimed that his client was not at the scene and that Eli Zakaria, Markhasev's friend who was with him at the time of the murder, was the killer.
On July 8, 1998, Markhasev was found guilty of first-degree murder and attempted robbery. On August 11, 1998, Markhasev was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and an additional ten years for using a gun in the crime.
In 2001, Markhasev confessed to killing Ennis Cosby in a handwritten letter to a California Deputy Attorney General: "Although my appeal is in its beginning stages, I don't want to continue with it because it's based on falsehood and deceit .... I am guilty, and I want to do the right thing .... More than anything, I want to apologize to the victim's family. It is my duty as a Christian, and it's the least I can do, after the great wickedness for which I am responsible."
Ennis Cosby would often say "Hello, friend", a term Bill Cosby would later adopt. Bill Cosby used the phrase for the animated character Little Bill, who was the main character of the eponymous Nickelodeon television series. In 1997, Bill and Camille Cosby established The Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation and assisted in addressing the needs and capabilities of those with learning difficulties by operating as a model for institutional transformation until the foundation's suspension in December 2008.
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