Margaret 'Peggy' Cockrell: Killed in Atascadero in 2008

April 13, 2010 

Kenneth Leroy Cockrell

Margaret "Peggy" Cockrell was beaten to death by her husband on Easter in 2008.

Atascadero police learned of the slaying when her husband, Kenneth LeRoy Cockrell Jr., 64, came to the police department shortly after the killing and sketched a map of his house for an officer before pushing the paper toward him and saying, "I killed my wife, " according to court records.

When investigators arrived at the home in the 9000 block of La Linia Avenue, they found his wife lying on her bed covered in blankets. Her head had been bludgeoned, according to court records.

In June 2009, Kenneth Cockrell was sent to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino after he was found incompetent to stand trial in his wife's beating death.

Cockrell is expected to receive rehabilitation treatment at the hospital that may restore him to competency in order to be tried for the murder.

But if Cockrell shows no signs of improvement, he may never stand trial for the slaying of his wife of 18 years.

A psychological evaluation and child-custody records from the 1970s and 1980s characterized Cockrell as a violent religious extremist who abused his children.

Cockrell was described in the records as physically abusive to his son and stepdaughter.

During a 1975 investigation by a San Luis Obispo County probation officer -- to determine who would have custody of Cockrell's 8-year-old son -- Cockrell was described by his ex-wife as having repeatedly beaten and verbally abused the boy.

"(The boy) was beaten by his father often with a board and made to kneel and pray at an altar in the garage of his home and is afraid to return to his father even for a visit, " the mother said the boy had told her. "(The boy) told her that his father would beat him with a board until it broke."

During the same custody investigation, an interview with Cockrell showed "(Cockrell) did indicate that in his past he had abused children more than he should have but religious fervor has intervened to correct this problem and he now feels that any punishments which he administers are done as part of God's will, " according to the court filings. "He has admitted to having broken (his stepdaughter's) leg when she was 10 months old, though he regrets this deeply and indicates that he would do no such thing in the future."

In a psychological examination in 1975 by Atascadero psychologist Bill E. Mosman -- also to determine who would have custody of the boy -- Cockrell was described as "an aggressive man with pent-up anger who controls those feelings by emphasizing the direct opposite."

Mosman talked to Cockrell about "severe child abuse on (his stepdaughter) at an early age" and further characterized the then-32-year-old man as dogmatic and rigid but concerned about his son.

Neither parent was judged suitable to retain custody of the boy.

Court records from Cockrell's second divorce in 1981 described his then-wife as saying she was afraid of him because he was explosive and irrational. She described him as a "radical Christian fundamentalist" who was mentally abusive.

Peggy Cockrell was retired from Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where she worked in medical records. Kenneth Cockrell had worked for a railroad company before retiring.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service