Where is Candice Cockerham’s Mom Vernetta Cockerham Now?

Investigation Discovery’s ‘Evil Lives Here: The Monster Inside Him’ follows how Vernetta Cockerham suffered from a terrible tragedy and yet took strength from it to fight for domestic abuse victims everywhere. This is the inspiring story of a mother who lost Candice Cockerham and battled the system and city to make the system better for her other children. Who is Vernetta Cockerham then? Let’s find out.

Vernetta Cockerham: Who are you?

Vernetta was born in Paterson (New Jersey) in 1969. As their parents couldn’t provide a stable place for them, Vernetta Cockerham was the youngest of their 3 sisters. Marie, a nurse in a local nursing facility, moved the sisters to Jonesville, North Carolina, when they were old enough to go to school. Marie raised her grandchildren in a traditional way. She took them to church on Sundays, and she cooked them canned vegetables.

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Image Credit: MRS.VAUGHAN/Find A Cemetery

It was Marie who had taught Vernetta to stand up for herself and fight – a lesson that was so properly instilled within her that she would go on to fight the system and change it. Vernetta moved to Newark, New Jersey to get to know her mother. She then moved to Paterson, New Jersey, where she lived with her dad and attended high school. Vernetta, a math tutor had Kevin Baker as her student just one summer before she started her sophomore year. The two of them had a quick romance that culminated in Vernetta becoming pregnant midway through her second year.

Vernetta was 15 when she gave birth to Candice Jonesville. She then moved back to Paterson and married Kevin, who was then 18. It was Kevin’s sister’s erstwhile boyfriend, Richard Ellerbee, who informed Vernetta that Kevin was cheating on her. Vernetta, who was 13 years older than Richard, was grateful and divorced Kevin. Richard became one her closest confidants. After finishing school, she began working in the records department of the Paterson Police Department. Candice, Candice’s 6th birthday, her mother-son moved to Jonesville where she managed 2 jobs and raised her daughter.

Richard arrived in Jonesville to find a job. In 1993, he began dating Vernetta (24 years old) and moved there. Though she never wanted any children after having complications during Candice’s birth, she found herself impregnated with Richard’s first son Rashieq in 1995. Richard made her marry him in December 2001 after she became pregnant with Dominiq’s second son. Vernetta was beginning to see Richard’s true colors, and she had severe anger management problems.

Vernetta was a victim to domestic abuse daily at home. Richard was arrested July 4, 2002 on charges of felony attack with a deadly instrument. Richard was soon released on bail, and the abuse continued. Richard continued to harass her and she made numerous complaints to police. He was detained several times and even placed a restraining or order. To scare her, he continued to stalk and harass her.

Vernetta filed more complaints, followed the law and was eventually arrested. Richard beat and killed Candice, and then stabbed Vernetta until she was almost dead on November 12, 2002. Vernetta then self-immolated three days later.

Vernetta Cockerham: Where are you today?

Vernetta’s wounds took a long time to heal but she was up on her feet and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jonesville and two police officers in November 2004. After 5 years of legal struggle, Vernetta reached a settlement in June 2009 with the city council. She was awarded $430,000. She said, “It took a long time, but this was well worth the wait for the people that it’s going to help. It’s happening now. I love being involved. I’m hoping to be able to implement services and changes in Yadkin county; that’s what the settlement means to me.”

Vernetta continues her advocacy for victims of domestic violence through the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The coalition’s executive director, Rita Anita Linger said, “… what really impressed me about Vernetta is that she immediately went into advocacy mode, being a support to other victims and looking for the systemic gaps and how we can fix them.” Vernetta has pushed a bill in the Senate that advocates for the arrest of those who defy restraining orders and continues to assist victims of domestic and sexual crimes.

Continue reading: Candice Cockerham Murder: Richard Ellerbee Where are You Now?

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