by Robert A. Waters
Sedrick “Ricky” Cobb’s murder of Julia Ashe never made national headlines. Even when a Connecticut jury convicted Cobb and a three-judge panel sentenced him to death, the case flew under the radar.
On December 16, 1989, Ashe walked out of Bradlees department store in Waterbury where the temperature had plummeted to 18 degrees. Toting bags filled with Christmas gifts, she discovered that her car had a flat tire. Cobb, a well-dressed stranger, stepped up and offered to change it.
Little did Ashe know that he was awaiting trial for raping a woman in Naugatuck, and that police suspected him in several other sexual assaults. She also didn’t know that he’d been stalking women in the Bradlees parking lot. When Ashe had gone into the store, Cobb used a valve stem remover to deflate her tire. Then he waited for her.
After changing the tire, Cobb requested that Ashe drive him to his own vehicle. It was parked about a mile away, he said. The naïve young college student agreed, thereby sealing her fate.
She drove him to a secluded area near City Mills Pond where he informed her they would find his car. There Cobb attacked his victim, raping her. After robbing Ashe of $300, he used fiberglass reinforced tape to bind her mouth, hands, and feet. Then he dragged her to a nearby dam and threw her over the wall.
Ashe fell 23 feet into the icy water. Although she was severely injured and suffering from hypothermia, the plucky student fought for her life.
Thrashing about, she found a jagged metal wire sticking out of the concrete wall. Ashe used the wire to cut the tape from her wrists and feet—while attempting unsuccessfully to cut the heavy-duty tape from her mouth, she lacerated her face. Near death from the vicious assault and the elements, and bleeding heavily from gashes to her body and face, Ashe staggered to shore.
Cobb, however, was waiting for her. Determined to leave no witnesses, he forced her face beneath the surface of the water until she drowned.
Cobb then stole the Christmas gifts Ashe had bought, and walked back to Bradlees where his car was parked.
On Christmas day, teenagers discovered the ice-crusted body of Julia Ashe floating in the pond.
Police tracked down Cobb and arrested him. In his car, investigators discovered the gifts, as well as the valve stem remover and other evidence. Cobb, trapped by his own incompetence, confessed to the co-ed’s murder.
The brutality of the crime, as well as the premeditated nature of it, convinced three normally reluctant New England judges to sentence Cobb to death.
But now the Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that no more executions will be carried out in the state. Cobb, a winner of the death row lottery, will supposedly spend the rest of his life in prison.
Unless he escapes.
Or unless the courts decide that life in prison, like the death penalty, is also cruel and unusual punishment.
Meanwhile, except for family and friends who still mourn her loss, Julia Ashe’s brutal death is now just a footnote in Connecticut criminal history.