Cupid, draw back your bow and let your arrow go
Straight to my lover’s heart for me
Cupid, please hear my cry and let your arrow fly
Straight to my lover’s heart for me
- Sam Cooke, “Cupid”
On Thursday, December 10th, 1964, 33-year old Sam Cooke (right) introduced himself to 22-year old Elisa Boyer (below) at Martoni’s, an Italian restaurant off Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Although Boyer understood that she was in the presence of the Sam Cooke, people at the restaurant said she did not seem star struck. The two acted like old friends.
After several drinks, they left together in Cooke’s red Ferrari and drove to a nearby club on Santa Monica Boulevard called PJ’s. Cooke was a regular at the club. He ordered drinks and made the rounds, saying hi to friends and acquaintances. At about 2 a.m. (and highly intoxicated), Cooke and Boyer got back into his Ferrari.
No one besides Cooke and Boyer knew the nature of their plans upon leaving PJ’s, but considering Boyer’s reputation with men at Sunset Strip hotspots, along with Cooke’s reported uncontrollable sex drive, it is not unreasonable to assume that the couple went in search of a bed.
They passed a number of hotels and motels during their 17-mile drive. Boyer later said he drove fast and recklessly.
They ended up at the Hacienda Motel in south-central Los Angeles. The Hacienda didn’t get a lot of customers in red Ferraris. It was a $3-a-night dive on South Figueroa Street – the sort of place where the desk clerk kept a pistol handy.
Although Boyer later claimed that she demanded Cooke take her home prior to their arrival at the Hacienda, Boyer indicated no distress to the clerk.
Franklin pointed out that per motel policy the couple had to check in as husband and wife, so Cooke signed in as “Mr. and Mrs. Sam Cooke”. He apparently had no qualms about using his real name, and he paid for the room in cash.
Boyer claimed that when she and Cooke got inside of the motel room, he became aggressive as he stripped her to her underwear.
“I started talking very loudly: ‘Please, take me home,’” Boyer later told police. “He pinned me on the bed. He kept saying, ‘We’re just going to talk.’…He pulled my sweater off and ripped my dress…I knew he was going to rape me.”
At some point Cooke went into the bathroom to relieve himself. When he emerged, Boyer was gone, as was most of his clothing and his wallet. According to Boyer, when Cooke stepped into the bathroom for a moment, she quickly grabbed her clothes and ran from the room. She claimed that in her haste, she had also scooped up most of Cooke’s clothing by mistake.
Boyer then ran to the motel manager’s office and pounded on the door, but Franklin did not answer because she was on the phone with the hotel owner, Evelyn Carr. So Boyer, in fear that Cooke would find her, fled to a nearby pay-phone and called police. Her call was logged in at 3:08 a.m. “Will you please come down to this number. I don’t know where I am. I’m kidnapped,” she told police. She said she had escaped in her underwear and stopped in a stairwell to dress.
Meanwhile, Cooke, dressed only in a sports jacket and shoes, jumped in his car and sped around to the front of the motel to try to find Boyer. In his drunken rage, he assumed she had gone back to the office.
“Where’s the girl?!” he yelled as he pounded on the office door.
Franklin, who was still on the phone with Carr, went to the door and said she didn’t know. Cooke kicked his way through the door and grabbed Franklin by the arms.
“We got in a tussle,” Franklin told police. “We fell to the floor. I tried to bite him through that jacket.”
Franklin broke free and fetched the .22 pistol she kept on hand. She pointed it at Cooke and squeezed the trigger three times. One of the shots pierced his heart.
According to Franklin, his final words were, “Lady, you shot me!” before mounting a last charge at her. She said that she then beat him over his head with a broomstick before he finally fell, mortally wounded by the gunshot.
After hearing the shots, Carr hung up and phoned police at about 3:15 a.m. “I think she shot him,” Carr said.
Police cars, with sirens wailing, raced to the scene, and officers found Sam Cooke dead. His Ferrari was still outside the office, the driver’s door open and the engine running.
A few minutes after police arrived, Elisa Boyer walked up and presented herself as Cooke’s victim.
Police found a bottle of Scotch in the Ferrari. They also inventoried Cooke’s property: a wristwatch, a money clip with $108, and some loose change.
A thin wallet in which Cooke carried credit cards and his driver’s license was never found. Witnesses at Martoni’s said he had a wad of perhaps $1,000, but that money was never recovered either. Police searched Boyer’s purse but found only a single $20 bill.
Boyer’s story of what happened the night of Cooke’s death has been called into question because of Cooke’s missing money, and the fact that only a month after Cooke was shot, Boyer was arrested for prostitution at a Hollywood motel after agreeing by phone to have sex with an undercover cop for $40. There was speculation over the possibility that Boyer may have gone willingly to the motel with Cooke, then slipped out of the room with Cooke’s clothing in order to rob him, rather than to escape an attempted rape.
However, such questions were ultimately deemed beyond the scope of the investigation, whose purpose was to establish the circumstances of Franklin’s role in the shooting, not to determine precisely what had transpired between Cooke and Boyer preceding the event. Also, when an attorney hired by the Cooke family tried to inquire about what Boyer did for a living, the prosecutor responded, “We are not concerned with the occupation of the girl.”
Police officials testified that both Boyer and Franklin had passed lie detector tests. The jurors took 15 minutes to rule the shooting justifiable to “protect life, limb and property.”
Cooke’s family still believed there was some sort of cover up and that evidence was suppressed. They maintained that there was a conspiracy to murder Cooke and that the murder took place in some manner entirely different from the three official accounts.
They hired a private investigator who uncovered the following information: (1) Cooke had dated Elisa Boyer three weeks prior to his murder despite the fact that numerous people warned him about her colorful past which included prostitution, and (2) Bertha Franklin had a .32 registered in her name yet she killed Cooke with a .22.
Additionally, singer Etta James revealed in her book, “Rage To Survive”, that when she viewed Cooke’s body in the funeral home he was so badly beaten that his head was decapitated from his shoulders, his hands were broken and crushed, his nose was smashed and he had a two inch bump on his head. These injuries were never explained, and some found it hard to believe that a 55-year old woman could inflict these types of injuries. (Cooke, as police found him, above.)
In 1979 Elisa Boyer was found guilty of second degree murder in the shooting death of her boyfriend. Bertha Franklin moved to Michigan and died 18 months after Cooke’s passing.
No concrete evidence supporting a conspiracy theory has been presented to date.
It is rumored that Dennis Wilson from The Beach Boys later bought Cooke’s red Ferrari. Wilson was a huge Cooke fan, and supposedly he would drive around in the car and listen to Cooke’s records.
I’m also a huge fan.