Teacher of year nominee found dead in Melbourne shooting

Police ID victim as Sandra Cook, who taught at Rockledge High

MELBOURNE, Fla. – Melbourne detectives continue to gather information about the shooting deaths of a 54-year-old woman and her 60-year-old estranged husband whose bodies were found by a relative concerned about her sibling’s whereabouts.

News 6 partner Florida Today reports that the woman was identified by police as Sandra Cook, a Rockledge High School teacher and recent finalist for Brevard County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.

The man was identified as Ricky Wayne Cook, Sandra Cook's estranged husband.

The Brevard County School District said Cook was a longtime district staff member and had worked at Rockledge High School since 2013. She taught math and served as the gifted coordinator. 

“Ms. Cook was one of the finest people to have walked the halls of our school and she will be truly missed," said Rockledge High principal, Tony Hines, in a release to News 6.

Police said Sandra Cook– believed shot and killed as she was lying in bed – and Ricky Cook were found about 10:50 a.m. by Cook's sister, who was concerned about her sibling not turning up for work earlier Monday. Cook had recently undergone a separation from her husband, said Ann Quesada, a sibling of Cook who lives in the neighborhood and said her sister was the victim.

Court records show Cook petitioned for a divorce in early January and had gotten a lawyer. There were no restraining orders or injunctions filed with the court.

Police gave few details of the shooting.

“They were inside the home,” Sgt. Trevor Shaffer, a spokesman for the Melbourne Police Department, said of the bodies found in the residence on Chapparal Drive, in a modest suburban neighborhood just west of North Wickham Road.

“The sister was doing a welfare check and found both of them. She obviously is very upset right now,” he said of the woman, who was heard screaming after making the gruesome discovery and calling police.

There were no reports of shots fired or other noise complaints, and it was not immediately known how long the bodies were in the home. A public records search of previous calls for service at the address did not turn up anything.

Police, who stopped short of calling the incident a murder-suicide, however, said they are not looking for anyone else for possible involvement at this point.

“We’re not going to assume anything just yet. They know each other and we aren’t looking for anyone else,” Shaffer said as crime scene agents videotaped the front of the house before getting ready to go inside.

Cook’s sister was one of about a dozen people who were gathered near the home as police arrived. She said she was heartbroken and stunned.

“She loved helping kids. She was wonderful. She did a lot of things. I’m just shocked,” she said, her eyes focused on the home where her sister lived for nearly three years.

Several neighbors stood outside and watched as crime scene vans pulled up in front of the one-story home. Detectives arrived a short time later and located the deceased woman’s sister to talk with her. Officers also roped off the driveway, where the sister’s sport utility vehicle was parked, and the front yard of the home.

“She was very nice. When we’d see her we’d wave,” said Sandra Huggins, a neighbor who spoke with the woman occasionally. She also said that she had not seen the woman’s husband at the house since around Thanksgiving.

She also recalled the woman carrying on with yard work on her own around Christmas time, pressure washing the fence and tending to the neatly trimmed yard.

“I went out to get my newspaper this morning and said, ‘I haven’t seen (her) lately.’ I didn’t know what was going on here until my neighbor came over and saw everybody out here,” Huggins said. “She was nice. Very nice.”

An investigation is ongoing.

Brevard County schools said grief counselors will be available at Rockledge High School on Tuesday. 

"Our hearts are truly saddened by the news of the tragic loss of one Brevard Public School's best and brightest," said Superintendent Desmond Blackburn in a release to News 6. "Our hearts and prayers go out to her friends, family, students and peers during this difficult time."