Originally created 03/14/97

Police arrest teen in Cosby case



ANGELES - A Russian-born teen gunned down Bill Cosby's son in a random robbery attempt, police said Thursday, confirming his arrest came after a tipster went to the National Enquirer in hopes of claiming a $100,000 reward.

Mikail Markhasez, 18, who came to the United States eight years ago, acted alone and "there was no indication that there is any Russian gang or Russian mob ties at all," police Chief Willie Williams told a news conference.

"It appears that robbery was the motive. It was happenstance," Chief Williams said. "This was a random stop as far as we know now. ... It happened to be a man in a car and the defendant who is now under arrest happened to come by."

Chief Williams also said investigators had seized the gun and the watch cap believed used in the Jan. 16 slaying of Ennis Cosby, who was shot along a roadside as he changed a tire on his $130,000 Mercedes convertible.

Ballistic tests have confirmed that it was the weapon used in the killing, Chief Williams said. He said the gun, which he did not describe, and the hat were found March 7 after a thorough search of the area with help from recruits from the Los Angeles police academy.

The chief noted that nothing appeared to have been taken during the robbery attempt, and the suspect apparently wasn't responsible for disabling Mr. Cosby's car.

Mr. Markhasez, who was arrested Wednesday night at his suburban North Hollywood home, faces one count of murder. Two people brought in for questioning Wednesday night - a man and a woman - were released, Chief Williams said.

The primary witness was a woman Ennis Cosby apparently was going to visit the night of the slaying. After Cosby got a flat tire, she went to the scene in her car and came face to face with the suspect. Williams said her description of Markhasez was remarkably accurate.

As the chief spoke, Markhasez's mug shot and an artist's sketch made from a description provided by the witness were displayed side by side.

Williams confirmed the tip came first to The National Enquirer's reward tip line, and was passed on to the police department's press relations office.

"This tip along with many other hundreds was methodically reviewed and followed-up on," the chief said. "The investigation of this tip included the issuance of at least three search and seizure warrants and the results of those warrants led to other information that ultimately identified the suspect and led to his arrest yesterday.

Enquirer editor Steve Coz said the tipster called within days of the killing and provided a reporter with a pager number. The number and name were relayed to police.

The tipster told the tabloid there was a Russian crime syndicate connection, and the Los Angeles Times reported the same link on Thursday, but Williams said Markhasez apparently wasn't part of a gang.

Coz said the tabloid's tipster helped police find the gun by pointing out the area a few miles from the crime scene where it had been dumped.

Cosby family spokesman David Brokaw talked to Bill and Camille Cosby and said, "I sense a real sense of triumph, exuberance and something along the lines of some sort of closure."

In a statement, the couple thanked police and said they "felt certain and had every hope that they would find the suspect and that the process of jurisprudence would unfold."

The younger Cosby was a doctoral candidate in special education at Columbia University. The slaying came as a particular shock to many because of the elder Cosby's role as America's favorite TV father.

The state of California and two tabloids offered rewards totaling nearly $400,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer. The state later withdrew its $50,000 offer at the request of the Cosby family. Los Angeles County also dropped a reward