When a sexual assault case came across the desk of City of Madison Police Detective Tracie Jokala, with the level of manipulation and violence, Detective Jokala knew this was not the suspects first time.
In the latest episode of the Go Law Enforcement Podcast, Detective Jokala provides an inside look at the investigation of Alec Cook, diagnosed as a narcissist and a sadist. ” The level on which Cook was assaulting and serially assaulting, the detective had not seen before in her career. Detective Jokala described the attacks as having a “high level of manipulation and entitlement in this individual, scary stuff very scary.
How Tracie Jokala became a Police Officer
I’m a Detective of Police for the City of Madison Police Department in Madison the capital of Wisconsin. Well, like many in this field I always saw the calling to serve. So I grew up with a grandfather who was a Milwaukee police officer so I was around police officers lot while I was growing up, I was always fascinated and always kind of drawn to that field. I kind of went in a roundabout way to get into his profession. I always knew I wanted to be a police officer but I wanted to do a lot of other things with my life. I think you know when you’re young you have a lot of different ideas and what you want to do in life. But I also knew that the strongest calling was to law enforcement. So I went to college I went to probably five different colleges over the years. And then after that at 22 years old I still wanted to see the world. So I joined the United States Army and I was active duty for four years and when I was 26 I applied for a Madison Police Department and was hired and then I eventually earned my bachelor’s degree while serving as a police officer. So I did a lot of different things in my 20s and that landed me here.
I work for the City of Madison Police Department and there’s numerous departments around this area and including the UW-Madison Police Department. The City of Madison has about 300,000 residents. But during the school year UW-Madison which is the largest university in UW system that can expand our population by 50,000 easily. And people come from all over, it’s a very diverse university, it’s a very diverse city. It’s pretty progressive and it’s a liberal city generally speaking. So there’s a lot going on here. The university presents its own unique set of challenges and obstacles when it comes to crime. A lot of students are here and they’re focused mostly on their studies so they’re not particularly paying attention maybe to locking in their doors. So you do have a lot of people going in and out of residences so I mean just having a student population in and of itself creates a whole new set of problems and then you have the large amount of sexual assaults that are associated with campus atmospheres. The bulk of which gone reported unfortunately but you still have that. So a lot of sexual assault investigations in Madison revolve around students. So the university is huge. It’s the biggest university like a state in the state. And it’s a great city. But as a cop you see Madison through a different lens.
Types of cases Detective Jokala works
For the last 10 years I would estimate that probably about 75 percent of my work has revolved around sexual assault investigations or sensitive crimes investigations. Currently I’m in the burglary unit I chose to go. The burglary unit is here just to get a different taste of a different type of investigation and I’ve been having a great time doing that. I’m finding it very rewarding to especially track down serial burglars who are just consistently committing crimes around the city.
How Detective Jokala started working the Alec Cook case
Typically on Monday morning I would get handed cases from over the weekend. I’m the first detective later Monday morning and if it involved a sexual assault investigation it was likely coming to me or if I could hold out for a little better it could go to the second shift detective. So I recalled walking into the briefing room and fielding a case involving a student from the UW. Many of my cases they’re assigned to me are going to be because I’m a central detective. Many of the cases are going to involve sexual assaults of students or people in their in their 20s.
The assault was so violent; this was not his first time
This case stood out to me because of the dynamics. The fact that they were acquaintances was not unusual. The fact that there appeared to be no alcohol or controlled substances involved. And what stood out to me, what was surfacing in the case was the level of manipulation that was going on. I felt that this assault also was violent; this is not his first time
This particular victim after the assault had gone to report it and was urged gone to the hospital and ultimately at the urging of a roommate reported it to the police department. And this was I believe that day a day or two after it occurred. In fact I think it was that afternoon right after. She described basically running into this suspect probably about four or five days before the assault I believe. She was riding her bike on a bike path near campus. And this suspect eventually who came to be Alec Cook had run literally almost run into her on a bike path and they struck up a conversation. From there they started talking and chatting back and forth and also doing some communication through Facebook. From there, for this victim in particular, she described it as their likenesses being uncanny, almost to the point he had he knew a lot about her or had these similarities with her like the same likes the same interests. Immediately she was smitten. This was somebody who was very charismatic, charming, seemed to say all the right things and they hit it off.
She had been working at a particular restaurant in the State Street area which is like a pedestrian mall. That is very popular for downtown and for students to walk and shop and eat. Alec had come to her workplace, and for her it was a coincidence. I believe that it was completely planned for him to run into her there and that he had dug this up on Facebook and knew that she worked at this particular restaurant and decided to go there. Eventually she got off of her shift and they had a meal together and went on a stroll. During this stroll this victim again described him as charming really laying on the charm and looking back, after the assault, she saw that there were some red flags that she kind of ignored because he just seemed so perfect to her. And this included doing things like taking her to the point that she was on the ground and she kept telling her stop and he wouldn’t. She said she dismissed this because she thought that he’s just this guy is so great. Eventually they made their way to his apartment and she told him, I’m really like you and a I don’t want to come up if you think it’s going to lead to something, that’s not what I’m into, I want to take this slow. This particular woman is a very kind hearted, trusting person, who was really truly interested in asserting a relationship with him. And Alec, acted almost basically offended, how could you ever, absolutely not. Alec displayed being offended at her that she would even think that he would even go there or try something on her.
So she bit unfortunately, and she described about going up to the apartment and how he changed. He changed into somebody who ended up assaulting her. Basically in the first five minutes of being up in the apartment there were some kissing. She was not even interested in even doing that. She wanted to get to know him better. Her point in going up was to do that and not to get romantically involved. But he insisted that she sit on the bed and he engaged in some kissing with her which she was OK with. However it quickly turned to very forceful kissing to the point where my victim described it as quote “eating my face.” She couldn’t get a breath. He would mouth and would kiss over her saying no. And that eventually progressed to a full assault that lasted several hours. She was not allowed to leave or she did not feel as though she was safe to leave. Based on the way he was holding her down and constantly had a hand on her or had her by a grip. Her phone was not near her. She had mentioned wanting to phone somebody or let somebody know where she was because it just wasn’t her thing and she had a roommate that was back in the dorm and he casually told her you can do that later. And the assault was so violent that she was strangled. Her hair was ripped from her head. And this lasted for hours.
When she was able to get out, she had to do so very gently and just by easing her way away from the situation eventually to the point where he didn’t block her from leaving. She left and she left the building. It was very early in the morning and she went back to her dorm and she ended up reporting later that day to the officer who took the case and eventually the case report landed on my desk Monday.
He couldn’t remember if he strangled her
Yes. This first victim who came forward, there were on Facebook. So she provided pictures to the officer. We had his identity, we knew who he was, we knew he was a student, in the student roster, so he was known. And actually the officer and a sergeant went to locate him they were able to locate him over the weekend after the case was reported and go contact him in the library.
Cook was dismissive. He was very vague in his answers to the officer, admitted he was with the victim. However couldn’t remember if he strangled her, things of that nature that are clearly red flags. Because you’ll remember if you strangle somebody or not, you’re either going to give a yes or no answer. That’s not something that you just don’t really remember. And he shut that conversation down very quick. In fact he told the officer yeah I’m busy now can you go away. He refused to provide a DNA sample. He refused to go with the officer to do a kit or a strip search for any biological evidence on him. And that was the end of that contact.
When I got the case Monday morning I was aware of this. I was aware of contact with Cook and based on my training and experience, patrol officers and those out there conducting these investigations on the street, based on what they have, they may not reach or feel that they’ve reached a level of an arrest. Based on what I had in front of me and I’m able to sit there and look at it all in one fell swoop. And in 10 years of doing this I can see this guy needs to be in custody now.
Concerned about the violence and manipulation
I focused more on the victim. I asked some co-workers to assist me, some other detectives in central to assist me in locating Alec and take him into custody. At this point I felt that we need to move forward with this ASAP. I was also very concerned about with the violence involved in this case and the level of manipulation. I felt that there were likely other victims out there.
I went and contacted the victim. I filled in some of the blanks that I wanted to fill in as far as what her statement was just nailing down some different facts, clarifying some things from the original interview of her.
I was notified by my co-worker that Alec was located and he had obtained an attorney at this point. And of course I wanted to get a statement from him and he did end up agreeing to make a statement about what occurred.
So the detective who met with him and his attorney at the attorney’s office and initially I was surprised that he wanted to make a statement because nothing good can come from that. But in a lot of sexual assault cases it boils down to consent. And in this case there were red flags about it. The level of violence involved, the fact the hair was torn out. These are things that point in and of themselves many times points to non consent. So in essence, Alec Cook had a lot of explaining to do. So while I was kind of taken aback that he was willing to provide a statement, in totality I guess I’m not so surprised because there is a lot of things that he had to explain away. And so he sat down with my co-worker and provided a recorded statement that was probably about I want to say two hours long and he had a lot more detail than he had when he was contacted by patrol, of course. And this was an entirely consensual situation. This was by his statement, was a victim who completely consented to all these things that basically rough sex and that’s where he stood with that.
That said, there were a very interesting things that were peppered throughout his statement times that he would pause there is start to say something and he’d correct himself. So there were some things that helped us from that interview but they’re also saying that he was trying to explain away that you know left in the hands of a jury, it’s 12 people that are that have to decide whether that holds water or not. You know who’s more credible, Mr. Cook or his victim.
Finding more victims
We have a policy here at the Madison Police Department that we do press releases on many different cases, notably when they are of interest to the public or the arrest or the case revolves around something that the public needs to know because they need to keep themselves safe, we need to public safe. With respect to Alec, when I got the case, read it, ended up in the coming days, getting him arrested and delving into it, I was certain there were more victims out there. And I know from doing this job for a long time that victims are so reluctant to come forward for a multitude of reasons. And so at the time this was unfolding and Alec was arrested, I went to our public information officer and they said we need to get a public release on this arrest because a I’m sure there’s more victims out there and that’s what he did.
A cascade of victims came forward
Many people came forward; it started a snowball effect that I can’t even keep up with, because there are so many ways victims may surface. It’s not all about just calling 911 and saying I want to report an assault. This was a huge social media frenzy. It’s a campus of 30,000, 40,000 people. What we came to learn in the coming days and weeks was that Alec Cook was notorious on campus. And I’m not going to say 40,000 people knew who he was, but there were many people that knew who he was, that he was that creepy guy and who would follow people and harass women. And people started talking about him on social media. This is a guy that was following me. This is that guy that was in my class and there were taking pictures of me. This is that guy that grabbed me in the hallway.
It was like squared. That’s how I can describe it, like people reporting squared because they were just kept on going and going down these worm holes of people talking about it. You click on one person they be talking and shared with these people and then all of a sudden this person is like yes that guy. And that’s not even counting the people who started stepping forward about assault. I fielded that a call from somebody and I would field lots of calls from people, it wasn’t until you got to the bread and butter of the conversation until you knew that okay this person is just telling me this guy creeped them out and there’s no crime, to a full blown, I want to come in and they start crying or they want to talk to you about this assault that happened a year ago. And this is the guy. And I just never had a courageous step forward and say it. So it was really overwhelming. I had spreadsheets going. I had case numbers I was pulling, every single one is a different case. It’s an immense amount of work. You have the help of a couple of detectives early on, but then it kind of faded away and it’s pretty much you are baby, you’re working it. It was a long hard investigation, and a lot of different names. We may have so many victims, but then there’s witnesses, contacts, people who want to give information. I can’t even describe how overwhelming a case like that is when somebody you start revealing is responsible for so many incidents.
How Alec Cook found his victims
Mostly it was in public areas, college library was a good place for him. The college union, he would hang out there. He would show up randomly to parties that he was not invited to. He was very overbearing to people. He was very intense. And people described him as when he walked in a room he owned it.
Diagnosed as a Narcissistic and a Sadist
Later on in the case, towards the end he was openly spoken about in court by a therapist who essentially diagnosed him as narcissistic and a sadist. And you know if you know anything about a narcissist you know that they demand attention in their boisterous, they need to be the center of things. He was not shy about this, not shy at all, and it was every putting. He was very off putting to people. And so he seemed like he was everywhere, that’s what some people would say. It also had stalking tendencies. He was eventually convicted of a stalking and he would show up and people would describe it as like a turn around and he was there and then I was over here three days later and he was staring at me from across the street. He was everywhere. Everywhere was a playground for him, it was a game. Anywhere he could find a woman to target, he’d be there.
15 Counts, 5 different women
That was the amount of sexual assaults, but there were lower level sexual assaults and there were stalking and strangulations. Alec had a whole MO; he had a whole modus operandi. He was brilliant as described by an ex roommate, he is a brilliant individual. He was a study of manipulation. We were in his apartment. We saw what he likes to read and he enjoyed reading about power, how to win. And he was relentless in it. So when he would target a woman, he would often be very bold and brash he would be very upfront. He would target the right ones, the ones that are very nice and are not going to say no, “give me your phone number”, “I think you’re cute”. He had the same lines over and over again. “I like your vibe,” things of that nature. Big bright smile, wouldn’t take his eyes off of somebody to the point it was uncomfortable for many and they would be cornered, pretty much emotionally cornered into kind of coughing up their number. Or he would grab their phone and just put his number in and then text himself from their phone, so he had their number. He was a very forward to the point where almost everybody we talk to witnesses, men that knew him, that he was just an overbearing person, and different and narcissistic. He would do this with women and he would constantly text them, and talk to them. If he targeted them for a sexual assault, he would again try to get them into his apartment. And one of the most intriguing and I think telling characteristics he used or maneuvers he used was gas lighting.
How Alec Cook used Gas Lighting
And if you’re familiar with gas lighting, gas lighting is kind of a buzz word now, but gas lighting refers to a very old movie from the 1940s with Ingrid Bergman. Her husband psychologically manipulated her into thinking she’s insane by turning down the gas light, turning down the light in the house. When he would turn down the light she would call him out and say these lights are dimmer and he said what are you talking about. And he would pretend like nothing was wrong when it truly he was doing these things to manipulate and he was doing things to her. But he was making her feel like she was off, she was insane, she was wrong, she must be crazy. So gas lighting is a common term these days for manipulating somebody in that fashion where they basically are like “What are you talking about, you know I didn’t I didn’t do that.” One of his M.O’s with victims. and this happened to pretty much every victim, was that after he would conduct this assault, he would get up and he would go to his kitchen and he would cook some eggs and pour a glass of milk and down a glass of milk, go to the bathroom, come out and say something along the lines of I’d like to see again. When can we date, when can we go out again. And that is gas lighting, making something question their sanity. With my first victim, the one who ended up leaving the apartment and reporting the following day. Again there were texts back and forth between them. And you know “I’d like to see you again.” Really, you know somebody like me who is investigating this. You just committed a very violent sexual assault against somebody and now you’re saying I’d like to see you again. So a very high level of manipulation and entitlement in this individual. Scary stuff very scary.
The Scheduled Trial
We had the trial scheduled of course; judges will schedule trials well in advance just in case they do go. But of course there’s always negotiations going on. And in this case he was charged with a lot. And I think when it really was tallied; it was up there, I want to say over 20 different felonies involved in this case. And there were never serious talks about a plea. I think we were so far apart with what we wanted versus what they were willing to settle for. We never thought we were going to meet in the middle. And a few weeks out from trial suddenly their side said they were going to accept our terms, and ours meaning the prosecutors terms. And that involved several counts of sexual assault and strangulation and a stalking. It did end up in a plea agreement.
He was sentenced several months ago back in June of 2018 and received some prison time, some extended supervision time, some probation, and then 15 year mandatory sex offender registry.
Level on which he was serial assaulting, not seen before
The Alec Cook case is very rare. You know the level on which he was assaulting and serially assaulting I have not seen in my career yet. You know there may be others out there like him I’m sure there are you know maybe they’re taking a page from him and you know how not to get revealed you know but he was so brazen and manipulative. He is an interesting individual, an offender, he’s scary.
Career advice for becoming a Police Officer
I took a very windy road to get here and I have a lot of experience in different areas and you know have taken a lot of different courses in different topics and I’m a military veteran. There is no perfect cookie cutter way to get to this profession. I would say that if you’re interested in this profession you need to be interested in people, you need to have a desire to solve problems, solve things. You’re going to deal a lot with people. I think there’s this misconception out there that it’s all about driving around in a car fast and pulling out your gun and you know putting handcuffs on somebody, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. You know anybody can be taught how to drive a car fast. Pretty much anybody can be taught how to shoot a gun accurately. Anyone can be taught how to through somebody on the ground or put them in handcuffs. But when you can’t be taught is integrity, character, that drive to learn, solve problems, solve cases. This is going to be a long career. I started older; I was 26 when I started. Doing this for 17 years, it can wear on you; you have to have a thick skin. You are going to be called every name in the book.
It takes a very well-rounded character to do this work. So in that theme you should really try to attain a well-roundedness when it comes to your education, volunteer work, learning about people, shadowing and learning about this job before you dive into it. You will find that people get into this line of work and they realize it’s not what they expected. So don’t make that mistake and learn as much as you can. Some of the degrees you even want to pursue involve people, sociology. You know there’s a lot of cops in Madison who have backgrounds in social work. They have been teachers before; they’ve worked with the public. They’ve worked in the public atmosphere. Doing this kind of work is not a stretch. You have to fill a lot of shoes as a patrol office. You’re going to be a counselor, psychologist; you’re going to be the authoritarian who takes somebody to jail when they don’t listen to you. You have to wear a lot of shoes. A lot of roles because that’s what society expects of us, because who you are going to have to show up on a call and solve somebody’s 20 year problem in 20 minutes because that’s what they’re going to expect of. That’s not for everyone, but it’s very rewarding. It can be very taxing but I can sit here now and I can say because of some of my hard work in certain cases certain people in the future will not be victimized.
Alec Cook no longer laying in wait to victimize students on campus
You know like one of the prosecutors on Alec Cook case said there’s a there’s now two sets incoming freshman and sophomore in the sophomores this year who have not had to be on a campus with Alec Cook, laying in wait to victimize people. Thousands of women who can now go about campus and live their lives and never have to run into that guy because a lot of people did hard work to get him held accountable and get him convicted.