Real Name: David Freeman
Aliases: Ben Freeman
Wanted For: Murder
Missing Since: November 1994
Details: David Freeman, a self-styled preacher, was an employee on Tim Good's Pennsylvania dairy farm, hired in 1987. At the time, he was going by the name "Ben". A teenager named Gene Kennedy also lived on the farm at the time. Within months, Freeman and his wife, Eliza, had moved into the main house with Tim and Gene.
Tim was estranged from his family and apparently turned to Freeman for spiritual guidance. Soon, however, Freeman apparently began acting as if he owned the farm. Gene claimed that he would often be locked out of the main house. In one instance, Freeman tried to attack him when he tried to enter it. Tim intervened, reminding him that Gene also lived there and was allowed to go in.
Within a year of Freeman's arrival, Tim stopped dairy farming and told neighbors that he sold the farm for $1 million. He later bought a much smaller one in West Virginia. Although Gene decided to stay in Pennsylvania, Freeman and his family moved with Tim to West Virginia. Oddly, Freeman was now calling himself "Dave". Within months, it appeared to neighbors that Freeman was taking control of the farm. It seemed as though he was the boss and Tim was the employee.
Freeman exploited Tim's religion and beliefs to make him a prisoner in the basement of his home while he and his family lived upstairs and spent all of his money. He soon had complete control over Tim's life. While Tim lived in a small, dilapidated basement room, upstairs, the residence was lavishly furnished. There was a hot tub, three large-screen TVs, and a wet bar.
The neighbors noticed that Tim was appearing less frequently outside of his house. Eventually, both he and Freeman dropped from sight. Over a year later in October 1994, one of the neighbors noticed a taxi driving towards Tim's farm; Freeman and his family were inside. A tree had fallen along the road, preventing the taxi from reaching the farmhouse. Some of the neighbors talked to Freeman, asking him about Tim's whereabouts. He claimed that he did not know where he was. Another neighbor later gave Freeman and his family a ride to Washington, D.C. He dropped them off at a service station along the beltway. This was the last time Freeman was seen.
A few weeks later, a chance intruder to the house found Tim's decomposing remains in the basement and no trace of Freeman a year after he was last seen. The intruder contacted the authorities; on November 14, 1994, they found his remains. Forensics would reveal that he had been strangled and left behind after possibly confronting Freeman. Sealed air vents suggested that the Freemans were living upstairs for months after the murder. It is believed that they left after they ran out of Tim's money.
Freeman's diaries described how he had manipulated Tim, allowing him and his family to live upstairs while Tim was forced into the basement. They also described how he controlled Tim's work schedule, eating arrangements, and overall life. Investigators believe that he was trying to retrieve them on the day that he was last seen. On February 15, 1996, he was officially charged with Tim's murder.
Disturbingly, authorities suspect that Freeman has committed additional murders in the past. Among the victims may have been two of his own children from a previous marriage.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the May 17, 1996 episode.
Results: Captured. A caller provided a tip identifying Freeman as William David Cooper, an auto mechanic. The caller noted that Cooper had actually ripped him off in some sort of a mechanic deal; he also gave information about Cooper's location. Law enforcement tracked him down to a house in Sterling, Virginia; they made the arrest on May 18, 1996, after he exited the house. Investigators now believe that his real name is Winston George Jelks. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to ten years in prison. He was later released on parole. He died on March 19, 2018.
His wife Arlene Whitehurst (who also went by Eliza Cooper) was also charged with Tim's murder. It is not known what sentence she received.
- David Freeman on Unsolved Archive
- Folsom death treated as homicide
- 'Religious fanatic' sought in '94 death
- Couple indicted in farmhouse slaying
- Couple indicted in slaying
- Man pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter
- Man enters plea in manslaughter charge
- Religious Violence in the News
- Winston Jelks Obituary