Cochran remains are exhumed

The body of 38-year-old Michael Cochran was exhumed from the resting place at Sunset Memorial Gardens, following a Raleigh County Circuit Court judicial order that was executed the first week of September, Raleigh County officials confirmed to The Register-Herald on Friday. A Raleigh official said in August that West Virginia State Police are investigating his wife Natalie Cochran for Michael's death.

The body of 38-year-old Michael Cochran was exhumed from Sunset Memorial Gardens, following a Raleigh County Circuit Court judicial order that was executed the first week of September, Raleigh County officials confirmed to The Register-Herald on Friday.

A copy of the judicial order was unavailable on Friday, pending the close of federal and state investigations into Michael's widow, Natalie Cochran of Daniels.

Sunset Memorial Park employees have been informed by an unidentified party that "documents are sealed" and that they "aren't allowed to talk about Michael Cochran," a worker there said on Friday. 

As of Friday, no federal or state criminal charges had been filed against Natalie Cochran, a former pharmacist who is accused by federal prosecutors of operating a scam that cheated local investors out of at least $2.8 million from 2017 until 2019. 

A Raleigh official said in August that West Virginia State Police are investigating Cochran for Michael's death.

He died at Bowers Hospice House on Feb. 11. In August, Cochran told The Register-Herald that Michael had been hospitalized a few times for an unspecified illness, in the months prior to his death.

A guest commented in her online obituary message to the Cochran family after Michael died that she had seen Michael at Charleston Area Medical Center in November.

• • • 

In July, federal prosecutors alleged in a U.S. Southern District Court civil filing that the Cochrans, who were owners of Tactical Solutions Group (Tactical) and Technological Management Solutions (TMS), had led investors to believe that Tactical had government contracts to provide semi-automatic weapons to the U.S. Department of Defense and other defense agencies. 

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart charged in the document that Tactical did not have a single government contract for semi-automatic weapons. Stuart said the Cochans were spending investors' money on dining out and displays of luxurious living. 

Tactical made donations to Shady Spring Middle School's football department and raised more than $32,000 by donating semi-automatic weapons as bingo prizes in February at a fundraiser at Shady Spring High School.

Half of the bingo money was donated to Shady Spring High volleyball, and half was donated to the Shady Spring Youth Baseball League, a private league for which Cochran was treasurer. Tactical made donations of $16,680 to the League, but the check bounced, said League board member James Quesenberry.

Numerous withdrawals were made from the League account without board approval, according to Quesenberry, a former Beckley Police Department officer who conducted an internal audit of financial records from May 1, 2018, to June.

Cochran filed bankruptcy in July. Her business dealings had been under federal and state scrutiny prior to the Feb. 11 death of her husband. Investors had reported to federal agencies that they were receiving letters under a U.S. Department of Defense letterhead that notified them that their return on investment would be available at a later date. They were allegedly told by Cochran that much of the information related to the investments was classified and could not be discussed.

In a creditors' meeting at federal court in August, Cochran told attorneys that federal agents and West Virginia State Police had frozen her bank accounts and left her unable to pay creditors, prompting her to file for bankruptcy.

Cochran also stated that, if her accounts were not frozen, she believed she would be able to pay creditors.

Quesenberry said Tuesday that only about $31 was left in June in the League account that Cochran had managed.

Investigators have since frozen the League account, he added.

After Michael's death, Cochran negotiated a sale of Tactical with local orthodontist Dan Foley with a $50,000 down payment, she said in federal court.

Foley did not go forward with the purchase after making the down payment, he said. 

• • • 

Federal agents were already investigating the Cochrans' businesses when Michael became ill at the couple's 4-H Lake Road home, five days before his death, according to Cochran.

Cochran said she had called a physician's assistant and a State Police trooper to the couple's home to examine him. She added that "after he fell" he was transported to a hospital within 20 minutes of his fall.

Cochran's bankruptcy attorney, Robert Dunlap, said in a local television interview that Michael had been vomiting in the sink and had broken a countertop when he fell.

The Register-Herald has identified the physician's assistant as Stephanie Hamilton, and her husband, J.D. Hamilton, who is a State Police officer. 

Cochran said she also called a local attorney and Michael's close friend, Chris Davis, when Michael was ill. Shortly after Davis arrived at the house, Michael was transported to a hospital.

Two witnesses, however, have told The Register-Herald that there was a span of several hours between the time that Cochran called the Hamiltons and the time that Davis was called. There were also several other adults in the house during those hours, according to allegations by the two witnesses.

Law enforcement officials have not commented on the investigation and have not confirmed those reports.

Cochran said that, at Michael's request, she had hosted a private memorial ceremony after his death with the couple's children, his mother and stepfather and her own family.

Michael's mother and stepfather, Donna and Ed Bolt, were identified in the federal creditors' meeting as being owed about $400,000 by Cochran.

Michael's father and stepmother, Michael and Pat Cochran of Raleigh County, have told local media outlets that the exclusivity of the memorial service and Michael's death have led them to have questions.

Cochran said in August that Michael had not socialized with his father and stepmother for around 10 years, following an alleged argument with Pat over babysitting about 10 years ago, and that it was his wishes that led her to have a small gathering.

She said at a creditor's meeting that she has received no life insurance pay-outs for his death.

Cochran's case has attracted national attention.

National crime show host Nancy Grace has been monitoring the investigation. 

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