Cheryl Coker case: Legal expert weighs in on why suspect is not charged

Cheryl Coker case: Legal expert weighs in on why suspect is not charged

RIVERSIDE — Most people named a homicide suspect end up at a place like the Montgomery County Jail a short time later, if police know where they are.

But William “Bill” Coker is not behind bars and people are questioning whether that’s the right move.

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News Center 7 broke the story this week that the Riverside Police Department named Coker a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Cheryl Coker, and that they are now calling it a homicide investigation.

News Center 7’s Mike Campbell spoke to a legal expert Thursday who said the move by Riverside police not to arrest Coker is unusual after he’s been named a suspect, but investigators may have a solid number of reasons for their decision.

“A person of interest is someone law enforcement believes has information for them. A suspect is someone law enforcement believes may be involved in the crime,” said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a University of Dayton law professor and legal expert.  “You have to be able to prove that the woman died. I don’t know if they have that proof. It’s somewhat hard without the body.”

When asked why they did not arrest Coker, Riverside police said it’s an active investigation and they want to exhaust all efforts.

“We’re very confident of this case. We’re going to continue to build this case,” said Det. Travis Abney.

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Earlier this week, Campbell spoke to Coker about his potential legal concerns, but Coker said he had not yet obtained legal counsel because he “didn’t do anything” and “didn’t think [he] needed to.”

After Coker was identified by police as a suspect, it prompted an outcry on social media with some of the comments directed at his employer.

Hoffmeister said it’s possible police are waiting as a form of leverage or are just working to identify more evidence.

“They seem confident, at least from police reports, that they are going to get where they want to be in the end, so I’ve got to think there is more information,” Hoffmeister said.

Riverside police said they do not have more to add beyond what they told News Center 7’s Cheryl McHenry and Campbell in a sit-down interview. Officials did say they are not necessarily going to wait until they find Cheryl Coker before making an arrest.

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