A Skinhead Slayer
Alone in the dark, Cole Bailey Sr. pilots his black Escalade around sleek, moonlit curves that make up the hundred-mile descent from his mountaintop mansion to the sprawling valley below.
Bailey lives on a hill above Prescott, and regularly does business in Phoenix and Tucson, traveling between the destinations so often and unpredictably that he seems to be everywhere at once.
By preference nocturnal, Bailey's black hair, goatee and clothing blend well with the night, and the long stretches of road are a fitting backdrop to the outrage and lust for vengeance that seethe beneath his exterior. He moves adeptly between two worlds; in one he's a modern country squire, in the other he's a flashy strip club owner.
But in both, circumstances have forged him into a rapacious hunter.
He's magnetic and mysterious, and his skin seems unnaturally pale and devoid of wrinkles for a 37-year-old father of four. With his pentagram-embroidered boots and LIVEVIL license plate, there's talk that he's a Satanist, or a vampire who uses his dark powers to suck people's energy. Bailey says he's neither, but he does what he can to perpetuate the rumors. They amuse him.
Eight months ago, Bailey vowed to avenge his murdered son by bringing those responsible to justice. His face was all over newscasts in the days following 20-year-old Cole Bailey Jr.'s death on October 16. Bailey's pale blue eyes shot bullets straight through the camera lens into living rooms across the Phoenix area. "I know some of your names already," he spat to the TV crews, referring to his son's assailants. "If the police don't find you . . . somebody will."
Bailey made good on his promise. He and his associates worked relentlessly on the case, sharing information with the cops. He took his son's story to national television, and two of the three men he believes are responsible have been caught.
But Bailey will not rest. "There's a good possibility this will end with my death," he says somberly. What was once a matter of bringing individuals to justice has grown into much more. It's not just particular skinheads who haunt him, although many names echo through his brain on these lonely moonlit drives. It's the skinhead community that breeds and harbors such men. It was that community that put him squarely in the vortex of hatred and violence.
Bailey parks his SUV, strides confidently into the Great Alaskan Bush Company and heads up the stairs to a private area. A woman in a g-string and stilettos swings around a pole onstage, shaking her head wildly to the strains of "Breakin' the Law" as multicolored lights lap at her body.
It's here that Bailey has chosen to be interviewed -- he's not a Starbucks kind of guy. He feels comfortable at this Grand Avenue strip club; friends own the place, his other son Aeron works here as a DJ, and security is tight. Which is important to Bailey. He believes there may come a day when skinheads come gunning for him, and a part of him would welcome such a confrontation. Like, say, the part of him that recently purchased a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol -- an enormous Israeli-made hand cannon that can shoot through a house. Bailey calls his gun the "Skinhead Hunter." The term might also be applied to him, though Slayer seems more appropriate; it's not hard to imagine Bailey as a black-clad, modern-day knight whose duty is to rid the land of marauding neo-Nazis.
"Let them come after me," he challenges. "I'm prepared for every attack."
About 8:30 p.m., Cole Bailey Jr. sauntered across the parking lot toward River City Pockets pool hall on Bell Road. He was freshly showered, and dressed in a button-down shirt, pants and black tennis shoes. Cole was slight at 5 feet, 10 inches and just 135 pounds. The sky was threatening rain as he entered the pool hall, dropped off a job application and walked back outside.
The young man, in love for the first time in his life, was eager to see his girlfriend; their romance had been tumultuous over the past months. The ex-wife of a good friend of Cole's father, she and Cole Jr. had fallen in love while bartending at a strip club, Bailey's Platinum Club West, that his dad then owned. When his dad discovered their romance, he'd been outraged and fired them both. Father and son didn't speak for a few months, and although their relationship had improved, Cole Sr. was still dishing out paternal reprimands. Notably, get a job!
Unemployed since his dad had told him his new love was "unacceptable," Cole Jr. hadn't been able to make the payments on his beloved Mustang, a ride he'd customized with the exact same graphics as the Mustang from The Fast and the Furious. The car had been impounded, and after a long talk with the bank a couple days earlier, Cole was determined to find a job and get his Mustang -- and, to some extent, his life -- back on track.
The pool hall was across the street from his apartment, and Cole had figured a job there would allow him to walk to work until he was financially able to recover the car. The job would have been a temporary solution to a cash-flow problem and a way to get his dad and the bank off his back. Cole liked art and computers, and had thought about a career designing graphics for video games. He'd wanted to be a fighter pilot when he was a kid, but the pacemaker he used because of a congenital heart defect made him ineligible for military service.
On the street, Cole called a cab on his cell phone to take him to his girlfriend's house.
Alone in the dark, he waited by a pillar near the pool hall's entrance to be picked up.
Cole Bailey Sr. spent his early childhood on a ranch outside of Tucson, riding bulls and living a cowboy lifestyle. His mother, Ginger, describes him as "rebellious," and Bailey concurs. He's had his share of fights. "I hate bullies. I've hated them all my life. I remember in fourth grade someone would pick on me and I'd think about getting back at them all night long. I've always been the quiet one who carried a big stick."
Soon after puberty hit, Bailey's aspirations became more Hollywood than Wild West. He wanted to be a rock star, and began composing and singing gritty blues-rock songs. But he wanted to be a father, too, and that goal was more easily attained. Bailey learned his girlfriend was pregnant when he was just 16, and Cole Adrian Alan Bailey Jr. was born on July 23, 1982.
"When Cole was born, I was overjoyed, ecstatic. I'm very guarded with my emotions, always in control, but that day there were tears running down my face," he says slowly. "Pure untainted joy."
Cole Jr. was diagnosed with his heart condition shortly after birth, a common congenital malady called ventricular septal defect, which means he had a hole between the left and right pumping sections of his heart. Cole would undergo two open-heart surgeries, including the installation of a pacemaker when he was 8 years old.
Cole was an understanding and sensitive kid, his grandmother remembers tenderly. When he was hospitalized for heart surgery, he met a sick young boy and intentionally lost a game of pool to him. "Cole Jr. then whispered to his Aunt Rachel that he . . . let the other boy win because the other boy needed to win," his grandmother recalls. She remembers camping trips in the Catalina mountains, thrill rides at the State Fair in Phoenix and the time Cole Jr. "convinced me to go down that twisty slide and then I got stuck and had a minor panic," which caused her grandsons to laugh uproariously.
Cole Bailey Sr. joined the Navy to support his young family when he was 17. He served four years in the service doing undercover drug-enforcement work for the Naval Intelligence Service. He was assigned to a Temporary Personnel unit, where those returning from overseas would await reassignment. Because of the constant flux of personnel, he says it wasn't difficult for an agent to operate without detection.
The Navy taught him prejudice, he says. Bailey describes military service as being much like prison in those days. There was a clear separation of races, and animosity was common. He says he was in boot camp five days when he fought a black man who blamed him and the white system for repression. But gradually, Bailey says, he's unlearned that prejudice: "I learned to judge a person on his own character."
Still, Bailey has cultivated distaste for certain factions of society; there's not an ounce of political correctness in him. "I don't like white trash, and I don't like immigrants flooding into this country. They have no patriotism, and they don't give a shit." The influx of illegal aliens, he says, was one reason he left urban Phoenix for the hills outside Prescott.
Bailey was discharged from the Navy at 20, and went to work promoting nightclubs in Hollywood, and playing with his band, Roadkill Cafe, on the weekends. It was there, he says, that he first made connections with a group of Russians that would later assist him in locating his son's killers. Bailey moved to Phoenix in 1994, and worked as a DJ at the Jungle Cabaret until 1996, when he bought his first strip club, Cheetah, which he renamed Amazons Olympic Gardens. In July 1997, he purchased another club, Baby Dolls, which became Bailey's Platinum Club West until it closed recently. Today, Bailey monitors operations at his Tucson club, Bunny Ranch Cabaret and Cafe, through a system of 20 video cameras that feed into his home in Prescott.
When Cole Jr. turned 18, Bailey put him to work in Bailey's Platinum as a bartender. "These middle-aged men would come in and sit and talk with him for hours," Bailey says. "Knowing that people were coming more to talk to him than watch the girls always made me smile."
Bailey was fascinated by his son's intellect and intuition. "I knew he was smarter than me. He was a people reader. He could size people up and read between the lines."
Bailey admits he was strict with his son. "I'm not much of a time-out kind of dad," he says with a smile. Their conversations, especially in the months before his death, "were pretty much yes sir, no sir."
"Things were still a little cool between us. He was resentful he wasn't working for me anymore, and he was having problems making payments on his Mustang."
Bailey wishes more than anything that he could regain that time with his son during those difficult months. In addition, he's felt cheated every single day since his son's death, knowing that he will never enjoy Cole's company again.
While Cole Bailey Jr. kept an eye out for his taxi, all hell was breaking loose inside River City Pockets. Police reports and witness statements describe a scene that quickly escalated from a shoving match between two women to an all-out brawl. (It should be noted that all of the suspects in the incident that unfolded maintain their innocence in the murder of Cole Bailey Jr.)
A group of skinheads, who'd frequented River City off and on, were playing pool at a nearby table while two of their girlfriends looked on -- Cassandra Woods (known as Aryan Angel, according to the tattoo on her back) and Kelly Coffman, a plump redhead who was stepping out on her husband while he was in prison. Woods, a skinny, dirty blonde, picked a fight with another customer, a young woman she suspected had been flirting with her boyfriend, Samuel Compton.
Compton is big and brawny. He has "White Power" tattooed on his back, and he carried brass knuckles in his pocket. Compton had had trouble controlling his aggression in the past, and had gone to prison for assault. When the bouncer stepped in to intervene in the fight between the two girls, Compton got into a row with the bouncer. A female bartender emerged from behind the bar to assist the bouncer and found herself knocked to the floor and repeatedly kicked in the face by Woods and Kelly Coffman. She was kicked so savagely that the blood vessels in her eyes burst.
Compton's friend Chris Whitley, one of the leaders of their skinhead crew, Unit 88 Skins, came to his friend's defense, as did Brandon Miller, a short, chubby guy whose nickname, Bulldog, is inked on his forearm, and Justin LaRue, whom police describe as a new recruit into the movement. Off-duty bouncers jumped in to help, and soon skinhead bodies were flying across pool tables. Someone broke a pool cue over a bouncer's back. One of the bouncers conked Compton on the head with a pool ball. Whitley and Miller knocked another bouncer to the floor and kicked him in the face. Whitley ripped off his shirt and shouted his name and prison identification number, asking anybody in the bar if they wanted a piece of him.
Someone yelled that the cops were coming, which allowed the bouncers to regain control. The bloody skinhead horde was ejected onto the sidewalk just a few feet from where Cole Bailey Jr. was standing.
When the group of bloodied and irate skinheads spilled out into the parking lot, Cole Bailey Jr. couldn't help but look.
Sammy Compton began goose-stepping and yelling, "White Power! White Pride!" Then Sammy's attention turned to the skinny guy by the wall. "What the fuck are you looking at?" he asked Cole. "Nothing, I'm just waiting for a cab," Cole answered back. Compton approached him and suddenly pounded him between the eyes with brass knuckles.
Bailey's glasses flew off, and he crumpled to the ground before attempting to get up and run. He only made it a few yards before the pack of skins descended on him, slamming him against the plate glass window of a pet shop, and punching him until he fell to the ground again. They kicked through his skull with steel-toed boots. They shattered his jaw and nose and eye sockets. Cassandra Woods egged them on. "Beat the nigger!" she yelled, as Miller, LaRue, Compton and Whitley stomped Cole's skull against the pavement.
Then, as quickly as the beating had begun, it was over. The skinheads piled into a red Honda and drove off into the night. A young woman who witnessed the attack from a corner of the parking lot ran up to Cole Jr. and grabbed his hand. She told him to hang on, to squeeze her hand. He did once, then let out a rattling last breath. The girl's friend ran into the bar to call 911. A bouncer emerged and ran to Cole's side. The young man's face was so bloodied that the bouncer later told police he couldn't tell what nationality Cole was. Cole Jr. was taken to the emergency room at John C. Lincoln Hospital and pronounced dead at 9:20 p.m.
I've seen dead bodies before," Cole Sr. says, "but I was horrified. He was so disfigured. I was horrified and enraged that someone would do such damage. It was so extensive [that] the intention could only have been murder."
The night Cole Jr. died, Bailey was at the Bunny Ranch in Tucson, trying to work logistics for a photo shoot of a bunch of g-string-clad strippers for Playtime magazine. Once the shots around his motorcycle were completed, Bailey went inside to his office and sent a few e-mails before calling it a night. He awoke the next day to phone messages urging him to call Detective Paul Dalton of the Phoenix Police Department.
"I thought maybe they were looking for someone who had been in one of my clubs," he says. Bailey called Dalton and was given the devastating news.
"Are you the father of Cole Adrian Alan Bailey?" Bailey says Dalton inquired. "Your son died last night," the detective continued.
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."
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.
Bailey called Patrick Bearup, a skinhead, convicted felon, and son of Maricopa County sheriff's candidate Tom Bearup. Patrick had been at the pool hall that evening, and, according to Bailey, "watched Cole die and did nothing." Whitley and Patrick were friends, and "I had a pretty good idea he knew where Whitley was hiding." So did police, Dalton says, but Patrick wasn't talking to the cops. It was a case, Dalton says, of "money talks and bullshit walks."
Bailey pressured Bearup, who quickly remembered the $10,000 reward Bailey had offered on television for information leading to the arrest of his son's killers. Bearup settled for $1,000, in effect selling Whitley to Bailey, and agreed to bring Whitley to a Denny's on Grand Avenue on December 21.
Bailey phoned Dalton, who was out Christmas shopping with his daughter, and Dalton quickly assembled a team of officers to assist with the eventual capture. Law enforcement had the building surrounded.
Bailey pulled up in the parking lot on his custom bike, a snarling beast of chrome and black flames, his hair shrouded in a knit cap adorned with large skulls. Bailey walked into the restaurant and spotted the pair immediately. Whitley had a cap pulled down concealing the large swastika tattooed on his forehead and was wearing street clothes, whereas Bearup was in full skinhead attire, complete with braces [suspenders] and boots. Then he sat down at a booth where one of the men who'd allegedly kicked the life out of his son was trying to eat a cheeseburger.
As Dalton and other agents staked out the parking lot and nervously watched the conversation inside, to the detective's disdain, someone had called the media. "I'm seeing booms go up. They were gonna go live, there was a news truck that pulled right into the Denny's parking lot." Dalton persuaded them to pull back until the capture.
Bailey had hoped for a confession, but got what he describes as a string of lies. "On my skin I did not kill your son," he says Whitley told him. "It was denial after denial," Bailey says, "and after about half an hour I said, Let's go.' The deal with Bearup was that after the meeting [Whitley] was to be at my will." Bailey signaled to police, and Whitley was jumped by law enforcement at the restaurant's door.
Although Bailey is determined to see all involved in the death of his son brought to justice, it's Compton he blames the most. "I think that some people have a predisposition for evil," Bailey says. "As soon as I saw Compton's picture, I knew, I knew he was the one." There was something about Compton that reminded Bailey of himself, though. "But on the other end of the spectrum," Bailey says. "I would go to any extent for my causes, but my causes are just. His causes are not just. He respects no boundaries."
With Compton, Bailey figured that "when and if I found him, one of us was going to end up dead." Bailey says Compton had spread a rumor aimed at Bailey that he'd sooner commit suicide than be taken by police, but that if Bailey were the one to find him, "he'd honor me with a battle to the death."
"I was almost counting on it," Bailey says. "I would have done to him what he did to my son."
Compton's adoptive mother, Amy, who lives in Virginia, appeared with Bailey on The John Walsh Show, and begged for Compton to turn himself in as her son's mug shot was shown to a national audience. "I had to make them rock stars in order to catch them," says Bailey, who himself has a movie deal in the works. In a letter to Bailey in January, Amy Compton wrote, "We know that it is a virtual certainty that my son Sam participated in this heinous act. Throughout the years of Sam's relentless descent into mental illness, substance abuse, and the skinhead culture, my worst fear has been that serious harm would come to an innocent person. I am devastated that this nightmare has come true.
"I feel compelled to plead with you not to place yourself in danger where Sam is concerned. My own experience is that you will not be able to reason with him if he feels desperate, as he certainly would. Please allow trained officers to confront and apprehend him."
Compton's mother also sent Bailey several letters from her son Samuel. One, written to a former girlfriend while Compton was in prison for assault, outlines a fantasy attack on the girlfriend's new boyfriend that is eerily similar to the events at River City Pockets nine months later. "I don't just hit, I want to bounce heads off of curbs and break teeth and bones. Throw into glass. Put steel toe boots to his face," he writes in careful cursive. "Have you ever seen a person get knocked out? I doubt it. They convulse on the floor and spit froth out of their mouths. I've seen eyeballs come out of heads."
Two months later, as Compton's release date drew near, Compton wrote a furious, ranting letter to his mother, demanding that she send his boots to the prison. "I'm pacing my cell in a rage right now over this. Its [sic] not funny or a game to me. Taking my boots is the ultimate insult to me. God damn mom, you have me so fucking pissed off. SEND ME MY BOOTS! Mom, I am not going to bug you, call or trouble you anymore. I want my goddamn fucking boots. They are my fucking boots, and I fucking want them." The demands and insults go on for three pages.
"Those are most likely the same boots that killed my son," Bailey muses.
Compton was captured in Bakersfield shortly after The John Walsh Show aired. Bailey went into a deep depression in the days following Compton's arrest. Focusing on the anger and the hunt had been a distraction from his grief. "Somehow I thought that when it was all over I'd get my son back," he says. Bailey says one suspect, Justin LaRue, remains at large. Bailey knows where he is, and says that if police don't bring him in soon, he will. Each day LaRue remains at large, Bailey's frustration mounts.
At present, Christopher Whitley and Samuel Compton are the only suspects charged, and are awaiting trial on capital murder. Detective Dalton predicts that at least one more arrest is imminent.
Bailey admits his son would have wanted and expected him to let justice take its course, but he says justice comes in many forms. The legal system alone does not seem enough to quell this father's pain and anger. The possibility of Compton's death is as much on his mind as the reality of his son's. "If I were in his shoes, I would ask that my life be taken in the manner that the victim's family found appropriate. I would ask that for myself so I might cross over with some dignity and honor," Bailey says. "[Compton] should not concern himself so much with his fate in this life. He should worry about what is after, because I will be there." He believes his rage is so intense that it will follow Compton into hell.
And should Compton be released from jail, Bailey will be there as well. "If he ever gets out, it will be a short trip from Madison Street Jail to the morgue. I will Jack Ruby his ass on the steps."
While he once limited his wrath to specific individuals, recent boasting and posturing by skinheads (including that in the New Times article "Local Hero," June 19) has widened the circle. The demons that haunt Bailey's waking and sleeping moments are men and women he's come to know well over the past months. He's stalked them through skinhead circles in Phoenix and around the country. He's spoken with their brothers and sisters, grandparents and high school friends. He says he's watched them from a distance -- and from inches away -- without their knowledge. And he will continue to do so.
"Skinheads' beliefs are based on thoughts and ideas that are outdated," says Bailey, a history and genealogy buff who has traced his ancestry back to pagan times in Britain. "They read Mein Kampf and The Turner Diaries and fill the rest in with guesses. These guys are not true skinheads, they killed a white kid. They're race traitors.
"I see these guys out there giving interviews and supporting each other." As long as they are out there, he says, "I'm not going to stop. That would be an insult to my son." Bailey views skinheads as domestic terrorists, homegrown half-wit versions of al-Qaeda, from which the next Ted Kaczynski or Timothy McVeigh could easily emerge.
In addition to the continued surveillance of individual skinheads, Bailey vows that every time skinheads meet in a public place -- at every picnic or rally -- he and his army of associates will be there to intimidate. "They will be outnumbered, outmanned and outgunned," Bailey threatens.
The point is, for Cole Bailey Sr., this is far from over.
Bailey prepared this eulogy for his son's funeral, although his emotional state prevented him from reading it at the service: "A part of me -- and what was everything -- is gone. I have come undone, and forever I am changed. You are gone, gone from this world, and my soul is ripped open a thousand miles wide. Blood of my blood has spilled away. The sun is setting, and the days of my life seem done. Every passing day a sentence. Every passing day I will count. Let the days weigh upon me like brick on brick. One day the load will break, and I say, hallowed be my name. And by God my name be vengeance. Until my days are done, until they are nothing more, just echoes in the shadows."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.