Murder victim led "life of service"

A veteran of the non-profit world, who spent his days helping others, was found murdered late Tuesday morning.

Knoxville Police found a man and woman dead inside a home on Alma Avenue in East Knoxville.

The family confirms the man is Gary Cooley, 56.

His co-workers at Knox Housing Partnership say they sent someone to check on Cooley when he didn't show up for work. Director Jackie Mayo said he never missed work without calling.

The employee found Cooley's door standing open and called police.

Officers discovered the bodies and say the door had been forced open.

The woman's name has not been released. KPD said they are still working to confirm her identity.

Cooley's family and friends spent the day outside the home waiting for answers they still haven't received.

"It's like I'm dreaming. The kind of person Gary was- the loving, kind, gentle giant that he was to our community and our family- it's just shocking," said Diane Jordan, a family friend.

"[He was] just a caring person. There's nothing he wouldn't do for you. That's the bottom line. For this to happen to be taken away from us to be taken off the earth just like that- it's senseless. I can't understand the reason," said his former father-in-law, Duck Smith.

Jordan said he led a life of service and worked in Knoxville non-profits for 20 years.

Mayo said, in his four years at Knox Housing Partnership, he helped to save hundreds of families from losing their homes. She added he was a valuable member of their team and will be greatly missed.

10News interviewed Cooley in 2005 about a program he was leading with Volunteer Ministries. It worked to get homeless people back on their feet.

While KPD continues to review evidence and conduct interviews, they say they need your help if you have any information. Call the Knoxville Police Department's crime information line at 865-215-7212


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