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Matrix Blamed in Murders

Four days after a grand jury indicted Joshua P. Cooke, 19, for the murder of his two parents, a Fairfax County Circuit Court approved the appointment of a mental health expert to evaluate the defendant.

Cooke was obsessed with the movie "The Matrix" at the time of the murders, according to Rachel Fierro, defense attorney.

"Defendant Cooke harbored a bona fide belief that he was living in the virtual reality of 'The Matrix' at the time of the alleged offenses and thus could not distinguish right from wrong or understand the nature, character and consequences of his alleged acts," wrote Fierro, in the defendant's motion for an appointment of an expert in psychiatry.

A large publicity poster of the movie hung on Joshua Cooke's bedroom wall. Cooke had a shotgun similar to the one depicted in the movie and he had the "unique black garments" of the main character, according to documents filed on April 18 in Circuit Court.

"'The Matrix' contains an extremely violent story in which all of the characters live in an alternate virtual reality universe and shoot each other, often with shotguns, and without consequence for their actions," wrote Fierro.

THE OAKTON TEENAGER was arrested on Monday, Feb. 17, 2003 after police found Cooke's mother, Margaret R. Cooke, 56, and father, Paul C. Cooke, 51, dead in the family's home. Cooke's parents both died of shotgun wounds, according to pathologist reports.

Joshua Cooke was indicted last Monday by the grand jury on four counts — for the murder of each parent and for using a firearm while committing each murder.

John Partridge, Rachel Fierro and the law firm of John H. Partridge & Associates, P.C. were appointed counsel for Cooke by the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Feb. 28, 2003.

The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board suspended Partidge's license to practice law for 30 months, effective May 1, 2003, after it found Partridge mishandled at least 10 cases since 1998.

While Partridge's name appears on Cooke's original court papers, Fierro's is the name signed on the most recent forms.

Defense attorneys and Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. are scheduled to meet Wednesday, April 30, to schedule a new trial date.

Cooke's jury trial was originally scheduled for May 12, 2003.