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Ceda Freeman has been waiting for this day for two years.
As the mother of Michael Cook, the one and only fatality in a brawl gone bad in a desert lot near Shadow Ridge High School in May of 2006, Freeman has searched long and hard for justice.
“At least he admitted that he set it up,” Freeman says. “But still, nobody has been charged with [murder].”
She’s talking about former Escape the Fate lead singer Ronnie Radke, the only person to be sentenced for involvement in the brawl that left Cook dead and one other young man injured.
Radke, 24, pleaded guilty January 18 to one charge of battery with substantial bodily harm. He was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $92,372 in restitution to Freeman.
“This [incident] has changed my life in every possible way,” Radke said. “This will haunt me forever.”
After the sentencing, a source close to the band said that Radke had been discharged from the group, ending the singer’s two-year career with the popular local band he co-founded. Representatives of Epitaph records, Escape the Fate’s label, would not comment.
The brawl, which Judge Donald Mosley called a “sad state of affairs,” occurred when Radke and Cook’s friend Marcel Colquitt agreed to meet out in the desert near the northwest high school to settle a brewing dispute. Radke brought three others, including alleged shooter Chase Rader, while Colquitt brought his brother Michael Colquitt as well as the 18-year-old Cook. During the brawl, Rader and Michael Colquitt both produced guns, and a struggle ensued. Rader fired his gun, killing Cook and leaving Michael Colquitt seriously injured.
Rader was initially charged with murder, but the charges were later dropped. Charges against Michael Colquitt were also dismissed in late 2006. But Marcel Colquitt, who was charged as a co-defendant with Radke and was facing felony charges, committed suicide last September.
“Marcel felt responsible for [Cook’s murder],” Freeman says. “He couldn’t take it anymore ... we found photographs of my son and his brother with blood on them [near his body].”
As part of his probation, Radke must be employed full-time, enroll in a drug and alcohol rehab program and stay out of trouble. He can’t transfer his probation to another state, which would give him trouble in the band—Escape the Fate is planning on a national tour this year.
But for Freeman, Radke’s sentencing and the restitution money aren’t enough. It still isn’t going to bring back her son or her son’s friend Marcel. She’s considering bringing civil charges against those she holds responsible for her son’s death.
“I don’t think probation is good enough for him,” Freeman says. “He has absolutely destroyed my family.”
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