A Skinhead Slayer

Cole Bailey's on a quest to vanquish Valley neo-Nazis who beat his son to death

Bailey says, "It was the oddest thing, like I had already heard it before." He asked the detective how it had happened, and Dalton told him his son was beaten to death by a group of skinheads. "I was more confused than you can imagine. But my son is white,' I told him."

Recalling the incident, Dalton says, "That was a terrible call. When I told him, it was a big silence, shock."

Bailey asked Dalton to keep his son's name from the media until he could inform the rest of the family. Then he got in his Escalade and rushed to Phoenix. "It was odd because, every time someone dies in my life, it rains -- and it poured all the way to Phoenix that day."

Despite his pentagram-embossed boots, Bailey is amused by rumors he's a vampire or a Satanist.
Kevin Scanlon
Despite his pentagram-embossed boots, Bailey is amused by rumors he's a vampire or a Satanist.

By the time he got here, the news had already reached Aeron. "I found him curled up on the floor," Bailey says. He picked up his other son, took him home and went to meet Dalton.

Dalton remembers meeting Bailey that evening at Cole Jr.'s apartment. "It was right around the corner from the pool hall, and I started to put two and two together."

Dalton's first impression of Bailey was "long hair, wearing black with a nine-millimeter [pistol] sticking out of his pants. He had just been told his son was murdered and wanted facts I didn't have. I knew he was going to be an active parent."

Bailey says he knew from the beginning that he wanted to conduct his own investigation. It was what any parent would do, he reasoned. But not any parent has the resources that Cole Bailey Sr. turned out to have.

The story was all over the media in the days following the fatal beating, and Cole Sr. had come out of his initial shock. He hired a pair of private investigators, one to talk with reporters and another to talk only with him. He also called in a host of favors, and claims he made contact with a network of Russian immigrants who later proved instrumental in tracking down those responsible for the brutality against his son.

He doesn't like to characterize them as the Russian mob. "They're much more sophisticated than that," he corrects. He calls them an organization with connections to federal agencies and other circles of power. "They can be violent, they will be violent and they are articulate and don't leave a trail," he says. "They are not flashy, they are all business, and they were the best fit for what I needed done."

The Russians conducted surveillance and intelligence operations based on a list of key players Bailey and the private investigators had compiled. They monitored residences, hangouts, phone conversations. They made personal visits when necessary.

Dalton has never met Bailey's Russian associates, and doesn't care to. The detective maintains that he has no information that any of Bailey's methods were illegal. "If you wanted to intimidate somebody," he says ruefully, "wouldn't you say you were with the Russian mafia?"

Compton, Whitley, LaRue and Woods had all fled Phoenix, and Miller, the only suspect left in town, was apprehended within days. (Miller has since been released from jail, with murder charges dismissed.) Once on the run, Bailey figured his suspects would have limited resources, and would rely on friends and family, plus the shaky network of skinheads that runs through the Pacific Northwest, California and Arizona.

It was a matter of tracking down such people first, and letting them know in no uncertain terms that Bailey would look upon those who harbored his son's killers as condoning Cole's murder.

Bailey devoted four to six hours a day toward capturing his son's killers. He spent many nights, flanked by burly associates, ringing doorbells in the Phoenix area of those he suspected might have some information for him. His technique was in-your-face. Bailey would approach the door holding a photo of Cole Jr. at 10 to 11 years of age and ask if they'd seen his son. Then he'd pull out a second photo from Cole's funeral and suggest that maybe the person didn't recognize the victim since his eye sockets were broken and his head caved in. "They figured out in a few short seconds who was at their door," he says, "and they'd start to stammer and stutter." Then, more often than not, information would flow.

"[Skinheads and their supporters] are not very aggressive when they are by themselves," Bailey says.

From the beginning, Dalton says, he and Bailey traded information. Usually, he says, investigators were at pace with, if not a step ahead of, Bailey. But Dalton could not give the Cole Bailey Jr. case his full attention; he had more than one homicide to solve. It was Bailey who phoned Dalton a few days before Christmas and told him where Whitley would be later that night -- which was with Bailey at a Denny's.

Cole Sr. had been monitoring a girlfriend of Whitley's in Tucson. When she received a call from Kelly Coffman (the heavyset skinhead from the night of the murder) with Whitley on the line, Bailey knew Chris was back in Phoenix. Consequently, he began putting pressure on some of the weakest links in the chain of conspiracy to hide Chris Whitley.

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