Real Name: David Freeman (at the time of the broadcast)
Aliases: Dave Freeman, Ben Freeman, William Cooper, Bill Thompson, Jim Thompson, Ben Thompson, Ben Welsh, Ben Walsh
Wanted For: Murder, Theft
Missing Since: October 1994
Details: On November 14, 1994, acting on an anonymous tip, police arrived at a house in Folsom, West Virginia, belonging to a thirty-seven-year-old well-to-do farmer named Timothy Allen "Tim" Good. The tip had come from an unlikely source. A would-be thief had broken in and found more than he had bargained for. The caller had said, “Look in the basement.” Police came across what appeared to be sparse living quarters. On the bed, they made a grisly discovery: Tim’s decomposed body. He had been beaten, strangled, and left undisturbed for about a year.
West Virginia state trooper J.B. Armstrong described the room that Tim was found in as basically a dungeon or a cell. There were bare walls and a concrete floor. Upstairs, the residence was lavishly furnished, with a hot tub Jacuzzi, three large screen TVs, expensive stereo and computer equipment, and a wet bar. The investigation quickly revealed that someone had been living in the house almost the entire time that Tim’s dead body had been in the basement. All of the air vents were sealed, no doubt to prevent odors from wafting upstairs. Then, police uncovered volumes of diaries written by a man known as Dave Freeman. It was his cryptic writings that would help authorities piece together Tim’s tragic demise.
Tim had previously owned and operated his family's 350-acre dairy farm in Collinsville, Pennsylvania. One of his workers was a young man named Gene Kennedy. Gene had come from a broken home and Tim was his unofficial guardian. Gene recalled that when he first came to live with Tim, instead of making it feel like he was "just giving it to him," Tim taught him how to do stuff on the farm. Gene enjoyed his living situation, being able to be on his own and make money at the age of thirteen.
The author of the diaries, Dave Freeman, was hired on in 1987 to repair farm equipment. At the time, he went by the name “Ben.” Within months, he and his wife, Eliza, had moved into the main house with Tim and Gene. Gene believed that, initially, Tim did not like Freeman. Freeman was something of a self-styled preacher. Tim was somewhat estranged from his family and apparently turned to Freeman for spiritual guidance. Tim’s neighbor and friend, Rose Foreman, recalled that Freeman had an unusual twist to the way he spoke with Tim, implying that he knew more than what most people did. Therefore, Tim looked at him as being a very wise man. He apparently believed that his only way to God was through Freeman. Freeman preached to him from the Bible daily and gave him messages that he said were from God.
Gene believes that it started off that Tim thought he found someone that he could trust, somebody that was well-educated, that would more or less stick with him instead of turning him away. Gene thinks that that is what Tim wanted and needed. But Freeman seemed to have his own agenda. Gene claims that Freeman began acting as if he owned the farm.
On one occasion, Gene came to the main house and found it locked. He knocked on the door, and Freeman came out. He told him that he could not come in unless he called ahead of time. Gene said that he lived there too, and that he would be in and out quickly. Freeman again said he would not let him in, because his wife was upstairs asleep. When Gene tried to walk around him to get inside, Freeman pushed him up against the wall. Tim witnessed this and told Freeman to let Gene go, reminding him that Gene also lived there and was allowed to go in. After Freeman left, Gene asked Tim if everything was okay, and Tim said that it was.
About a year after Freeman arrived, Tim stopped dairy farming. Gene would come down to the farm and find that there were no cows, calves, or dry stock. Everything was empty. One day in 1991, he told Rose that he sold the farm. He told her that he got $1 million for it, and he was apparently very proud of it. Tim turned around and bought another, much smaller farm in Folsom, West Virginia. Gene stayed in Pennsylvania, but Freeman and his family made the move with Tim. Oddly, Freeman was now calling himself “Dave.” Freeman and Tim reportedly planned to build a church or religious commune on their new property. According to Tim's family, he also began to express apocalyptic religious views, presumably due to Freeman. He also became skeptical of the banking system and believed that the monetary system would fall apart.
Neighbor George Anderson soon noticed that Tim was the one that was always doing the work, while Freeman was always at the house. To George, it seemed like Freeman was the boss of the farm, not Tim. For example, Freeman would make Tim chop up firewood for the home, while he sat on the porch and supervised him. By 1992, the living arrangements reflected this strange role reversal. Freeman’s diaries revealed that while he and his family lived comfortably upstairs, Tim became a virtual prisoner in the basement. In fact, according to the diaries, Freeman locked him in the basement each night. He was only allowed to leave the property to run errands for Freeman. Police believe that Freeman exploited Tim's religious beliefs to take over his home.
According to police, Freeman’s diaries were very detailed. He indicated in them what chores Tim was to perform that day. He even indicated what Tim was to eat that day, if he was allowed to do so. On some days, he deprived him of food and water as punishment. Every aspect of Tim’s life was controlled by Freeman. According to the diaries, every day, Tim did something that would irritate or disgust Freeman. Basically, Tim could not do anything correct and everything he did was a mistake or it was not “God’s way to do it.”
In August 1993, Tim's father and stepmother surprised Tim with a visit at his home. They noticed that he did not want him to come inside; he claimed that he was fixing up the home. That was the last time they saw him. Freeman also refused to let people inside the home and apparently did not want people to see him on the property. When George first met Tim, Tim would come to his house all of the time. Every day, they would see and talk to each other. They would usually talk about farming. Tim said that he was going to get his farm cleaned up and do a lot of work to it. But as time passed, Tim visited him less and less. Eventually, sometime in 1993, they stopped seeing each other. In fact, George did not see Tim or Freeman for about a year. He assumed they had left the area.
Then, on the afternoon of October 30, 1994, a taxicab came up the road headed for Tim’s farm. George’s grandchildren were out in the yard and saw the cab. They told George that Freeman and Eliza were back. George decided to go up and ask them about Tim, since he had been gone for about a year at that point. The road to the farmhouse was blocked by a fallen tree, so Freeman had gone up on foot. When he returned to the cab, George was there. George asked Freeman about Tim, but Freeman said that he had not seen Tim in a long time and did not know where he was. He did say that he had walked up to the house and it looked like somebody had broken the kitchen door. He said he opened the door and looked in, and that was as far as he went.
Trooper Armstrong believes that Freeman came back to the Good farm to remove the diaries. He believes that Freeman was surprised by George and his grandchildren showing up. There was no way for him to remove anything from the home without the neighbors observing it. Later that day, George’s son-in-law gave Freeman and his family a ride to Washington, D.C. He dropped them off at a service station along the beltway near Silver Spring, Maryland. They have not been seen since.
Two weeks later, police discovered Tim’s decomposed remains. He was last known to be alive in November 1993 when he purchased a handgun from a Walmart. It is believed that Freeman strangled him to death sometime between then and March 1994. Grocery receipts indicated that Freeman and his family had lived in the house for approximately seven months after Tim’s death. They apparently left when they ran out of money. Tim’s bank account, which had previously held almost $1 million, now contained less than $2.
Freeman indicated in his diaries that Tim questioned him about the money. Freeman apparently realized that he did not have the control on Tim that he had once had. Trooper Armstrong believes that that quite possibly led to his demise. It is suspected that he may have purchased the handgun to confront Freeman. On February 15, 1996, Freeman was officially charged with Tim's murder.
Disturbingly, based on information contained in Freeman's diaries, authorities suspect that he has committed additional murders in the past. Among the victims may have been two of his own children from a previous marriage. According to police, Freeman also apparently believes that the "end of the world is near." He may have previously been associated with a cult. He has many contacts in the Baltimore-Washington area. He also claimed to be from the Windsor, Ontario area.
- This case first aired on the May 17, 1996 episode; it was updated on the October 18, 1996 episode.
- Tim's family declined to be interviewed for it because they did not know much about Freeman.
- Some sources state that Freeman's real name is "Winston George Jelks", while others state that it is "William David Cooper".
Results: Captured. On the night of the broadcast, a viewer called the telecenter; he recognized Freeman as thirty-nine-year-old William David Cooper, an auto mechanic. Freeman had recently worked on the viewer’s car and made an unforgettable impression. According to the viewer, Freeman had ripped him off, making him pay $1,000 more than he was supposed to. Trooper Armstrong had flown in from West Virginia to monitor the calls. He was excited when they realized that it was a valid tip.
The tipster also gave police Freeman's address. Within hours, police had staked out his apartment in Sterling, Virginia. Early the next morning, May 18, 1996, he came out the apartment, and police officers realized that he matched Freeman’s description. Police had learned that his wife and four children were in the apartment, so they waited for him to leave the premises. Then, at 9:15am, as he drove away from the apartment, they made their move. They pulled him over and arrested him. Tim's gun was found in his possession. When he was told that he was being charged with Tim's murder, he replied, "Oh, they found his body."
Investigators now believe that Freeman's real name is William Cooper. In September 1996, he and his wife, Arlene Elizabeth Whitehurst (also known as Eliza Cooper), were indicted on felony counts of murder and conspiracy. Arlene remained at large until she was arrested in 1997. In October 1997, he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to ten years in prison. He was later released on parole. It is not known if Arlene was convicted of the charges.
A man named "Winston George Jelks" passed away on March 19, 2018. Jelks was a known alias (and possible real name) of Freeman. However, it is not known if this is the same man as Freeman/Cooper. Some sources indicate that Freeman is alive and living in Maryland.
Tim's father, Harold, passed away on January 18, 1999. His stepmother, Rachel, passed away on July 28, 2016.
- David Freeman on Unsolved Archive
- Folsom death treated as homicide - November 22, 1994
- Remains of ex-county man found in W.Va. - November 22, 1994
- 'Religious fanatic' sought in '94 death - February 17, 1996
- New photo revives murder probe (Page 1) (Page 2) - February 17, 1996
- Police search for suspected killer (Page 1) (Page 2) - February 18, 1996
- 2 indicted in bizarre murder (Page 1) (Page 2) - September 16, 1996
- Couple indicted in farmhouse slaying - September 16, 1996
- Couple indicted in slaying - September 16, 1996
- Tip leads to arrest in W.Va. murder - September 17, 1996
- Trial starting for 1993 murder - September 3, 1997
- Man pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter - October 11, 1997
- Man enters plea in manslaughter charge - October 11, 1997
- Airville man's killer convicted (Page 1) (Page 2) - October 15, 1997
- Suspect guilty in bizarre cult killing (Page 1) (Page 2) - October 15, 1997
- Man gets 10 years in bizarre cult killing (Page 1) (Page 2) - October 21, 1997
- Reddit Discussion of Tim and Freeman
- Winston Jelks' Obituary
- Tim's stepmother Rachel's Obituary
- Tim Good on Find a Grave