Suspect changes slaying story in jailhouse interview

Joseph Perez had already confessed.

He and another man went to burglarize a woman’s home, he told detectives. And when the 68-year-old came home early, they killed her.

And, he said, the woman’s daughter was with them.

But now Perez has changed his story.

In a jailhouse interview last week, Perez, 44, claimed his girlfriend, Autumn Cole, had nothing to do with the killing of her mom, longtime Las Vegas resident Katherine “Charli” Cole.

Through a video monitor at the Clark County Detention Center, Perez told a rambling, tearful and sometimes incoherent tale of confusion, intimidation and regret.

Most of his sympathy was not for Katherine Cole, who died on a garage floor with a ligature around her neck. Perez said he felt sorry for her daughter, who was wrongfully charged with murder based on his statements.

“I just want the lady’s daughter to go home. She had nothing to do with it,” he said.

For most of Wednesday’s interview, Perez kept his head down and spoke in a low, mumbling voice.

He said he had been segregated from other inmates at the county jail for about a week and given heavy medication for outbursts.

This was his first chance to tell the real story, he said.

Perez originally told police that he, Autumn Cole, 44, and Lorenzo Cardenas-Sanchez, 37, were in Katherine Cole’s home July 28.

All three regularly used drugs together. Autumn Cole was Perez’s live-in girlfriend and Cardenas-Sanchez was a small-time “piece of crap” dealer who provided them methamphetamine and other drugs, Perez said.

Funds were running low. Perez had been inside Katherine Cole’s home a few times and figured they could get a couple of hundred bucks for her low-end electronics.

Perez said he also knew that Katherine Cole, who worked at the South Point hotel-casino, was rarely home.

Perez and Cardenas-Sanchez took a van to her east valley home that afternoon.

But Autumn Cole was not there and had no knowledge of their intentions, he said.

‘OUR WORD AGAINST HERS’

Perez lied about her presence at the crime scene because he was angry. She had cheated on him before, and he assumed she was sleeping with Cardenas-Sanchez, he said.

The two men conspired to blame her if they were caught.

“It would be our word against hers,” Perez said.

Autumn Cole didn’t find out about her mother’s death until Friday. Perez was unclear on when she discovered his involvement but said she eventually found some of her mother’s things in his possession.

To keep her calm, Perez said he drugged her. She already was taking anxiety pills, but Perez said he slipped some “speed” into her Pepsi.

He refused to let Autumn out of his sight and always kept an ear to her phone when detectives or family called.

Perez said he even threatened her.

“She was scared of me. Terrified of me,” he said. “I said I’d kill her, too.”

When they suspected that detectives were close, all three decided to leave town. They were hiding in a weekly Fremont Street motel and planned to flee from there, he said.

But police were watching, and they pulled the van over on Aug. 1 and arrested all three suspects.

Katherine Cole’s bank cards were among the evidence police seized.

‘IT JUST GOT OUT OF HAND’

“It was not supposed to be like that,” Perez said. “You know what I’m saying?”

Katherine Cole was not supposed to die; they just wanted her property, he said.

But his memory was foggy when discussing the details of her death.

Perez said Cardenas-Sanchez was the one who killed Katherine Cole, but Perez doesn’t remember how it happened.

She must have been “hit hard, choked or stabbed,” he said, although he didn’t see any blood.

He saw Cardenas-Sanchez on top of Katherine Cole but said he wasn’t sure what was happening. He admitted moving the woman’s body and stealing her wallet and car.

But this was also personal to Perez, who was angry how the mother had treated her daughter.

When he recalled seeing pain in his girlfriend’s face, he sobbed.

“Her family didn’t want her,” he said. “They used to tell her she’s worthless. Treated her like (expletive).”

Perez said Katherine Cole was just supposed to be mistreated or “slapped around.” He wanted her to feel a “little” pain, like her daughter had.

“To make her feel like she used to feel,” he said.

Friends of Katherine Cole had told the Review-Journal that her daughter had always been welcome in her home. The mother never stopped trying to help her daughter, who battled mental health problems and addiction, they said.

When Perez left the scene, he said Katherine Cole was still alive.

When asked why they didn’t take the woman to a hospital, Perez said he was scared and confused.

He went home and took 10 showers, he said.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was hoping she wasn’t dead,” he said. “It just got out of hand.”

‘GOOD EVIDENCE’

How Perez’s new statements might effect Autumn Cole’s case was unclear.

Cole wouldn’t speak to detectives after her arrest.

Her lawyers, Clark County deputy special public defenders Michael Hyte and Ivette Maningo, had not spoken to Cole about the case as of Wednesday and wouldn’t comment.

Prosecutor Pam Weckerly also wouldn’t speak about the case.

Autumn Cole’s sister, Joy Cole, declined comment through a family friend.

Las Vegas police homicide Lt. Lew Roberts, however, said detectives are confident in the charges.

Perez might not be credible, given his felony convictions for burglary and two sexual assaults, Roberts said.

“We have good evidence that all three were involved,” he said. “That’s on him if he wants to flap his gums.”

Perez said he decided to come clean because he got arrested.

If he hadn’t been caught, he would have run forever, he said.

He also doesn’t care if people blame him and Cardenas-Sanchez for their actions, he said.

But they shouldn’t blame Autumn Cole for his lies.

“I don’t know what they want to do with her. I’m not a judge,” he said. “But that’s what I did to her.”

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at
mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

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