An Atascadero man who allegedly admitted to bludgeoning his wife to death in 2008 with a hammer will stand trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Kenneth Cockrell, 67, was in Judge Barry LaBarbera’s court for a preliminary hearing charging him with the March 23, 2008, death of his 69-year-old wife, Margaret “Peggy” Cockrell. He has pleaded not guilty.
Cockrell was arrested on Easter Sunday that year after he calmly entered the Atascadero Police Department and said he killed his wife, according to court documents. Investigators later found Peggy Cockrell’s body inside a bedroom in the couple’s home in the 9000 block of La Linia Avenue.
Cockrell initially was found incompetent to stand trial but was treated in a state institution.
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In the spring, he was determined capable of understanding the charges against him, and criminal proceedings have resumed.
On Tuesday, prosecutor Matt Kraut called three law enforcement witnesses, who testified to physical evidence in the home and to a medical examiner’s findings.
The examiner found seven “areas of injury” to Peggy Cockrell’s skull — five of which the doctor said were potentially lethal, according to District Attorney’s Office investigator Mark Valley.
A six-pound hammer believed to be the alleged murder weapon also was found in the home.
A Bible sat open nearby, with the word “death” underlined in one of the passages, according to police.
But no testimony to the possible connection between that Bible passage and the alleged murder was presented Tuesday.
Atascadero Police Officer Nick Coughlin said he met with Cockrell in the lobby of the police station on the afternoon of the alleged murder.
Cockrell began to diagram a map of the house before telling Coughlin about the incident.
“He said, ‘I killed my wife,’ ” Coughlin said.
According to Tuesday’s testimony, Cockrell appeared calm when he came to the police station and allegedly confessed to the crime.
The medical examiner’s official cause of death was a massive brain injury due to blunt force trauma, according to investigators.
Defense attorney Guy Galambos did not call any witnesses.
The case is set for a further arraignment Sept. 14 in LaBarbera’s court.