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Murders A-Z is a collection of true crime stories that take an in-depth look at both little-known and infamous murders throughout history.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known for its dense forest, scenic hiking trails, abundance of lakes and cold winters. In a state with a deep industrial manufacturing history, its nature is unspoiled by the intrusions of man. It's “God’s Country,” as attorney Michael Scholke calls it. But Scholke’s client Kelly Cochran spoke to a different reality, one of extramarital affairs, drug abuse, murder and — if she is to believed — cannibalism and serial killers.
Kelly and her husband Jason Cochran were originally from Merrillville, Indiana, not an hour’s drive from Chicago. They grew up next door to each other, and after high school they got married and started their own business: servicing swimming pools. They were an odd couple, but they seemed to genuinely love each other.
Friend Jennifer Ammerman told “Snapped,” which airs Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen, "Kelly was the conversation person. He didn’t really say much unless we got him talking about something.”
After 10 years or manual labor, Jason’s back gave out, and he was no longer able to perform his job. He was often in excruciating pain, and Kelly took over paying the bills (and just about everything else). In 2013, they decided they needed a change and moved to Iron River, Michigan, in part, so Jason could get legal marijuana, which helped with his back pain.
“He wanted to get a medical marijuana card, and he did do that upon moving to Michigan,” friend Walter Ammerman III told “Snapped.”
Now ensconced in the Upper Peninsula, Kelly got a job at a factory that manufactured parts for Naval ships. There, she met 53-year-old Christopher Regan, an Air Force veteran who grew up in Detroit. After leaving the service, he settled in Traverse City, Michigan, where he began dating an Iron River school teacher named Terri O’Donnell, whom he had met when stationed at K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base in nearby Marquette. Soon, he moved to Iron River to be near Terri and take advantage of its access to the great outdoors.
Despite a 20-year age difference, Kelly and Chris had a lot in common. They were transplants to the area, and both were outgoing and sociable. They often took breaks together, and co-workers noticed their rapport and friendship at work and started to gossip.
"The rumor was that Christopher was having an affair with Kelly,” Terri O’Donnell told “Snapped.”
Whether because of the alleged affair or other factors, O’Donnell and Regan’s relationship had started to cool off, but they remained friends and kept in touch. Regan began planning a move to Asheville, North Carolina, after accepting a job offer there. On the morning of October 14, 2014, Regan texted O’Donnell. In an interview with Fox News, she says they were trying to patch things up and had made plans to spend Thanksgiving together. It would be the last anyone would ever hear from him.
After not hearing from Regan in 10 days, O’Donnell reported him missing to the Iron River Police Department. When police searched his home, it was in complete disarray, which O’Donnell says was uncharacteristic of him, and his phone was missing. Police later found his car outside of town. On it there was a sticky with directions to a home in Old Caspian, a former mining community that has seen better days. It was the home of Kelly and Jason Cochran.
Police drove out and talked to the Cochrans. Kelly said she had been in touch with Regan around the time he was last heard from, but not since then. Iron River Police Sergeant Cindy Barrette told “Snapped” she found Kelly “friendly, outgoing, not the least bit nervous,” but that Jason was “emotionless” and stood off to the side.
“I became suspicious, but I had nothing to base my suspicions on,” Barrette said.
Co-workers of Regan and Cochran told police about their rumored romance, so they brought Kelly and Jason in for a formal interview. Kelly admitted that she and Chris were having an affair, but that she and Jason were in an open marriage and he was fine with it. Their interview with Jason, however, seemed to contradict this.
“During the interviews, Jason Cochran did show how upset he was with Kelly and her extramarital affairs,” Cindy Barrette told “Snapped”
In March 2015, police searched the Cochan’s home. They didn’t find a body, nor any evidence, but they did find the rough draft of a book written by Jason in which he talked about going on killing sprees and seeking revenge against someone, who they say was very similar to Chris Regan. Shortly afterward, the Cochrans left town and returned to Indiana, moving to the town of Hobart.
On February 20, 2016, Kelly Cochran called 911 saying her husband wasn’t breathing. When technicians arrived, Kelly was hysterical and disruptive, and they realized that Jason was already dead. It appeared he had died from a heroin overdose, which he had reportedly began using to battle his chronic back pain. When friend Walter Ammerman III heard the news, he couldn’t believe it.
“Right away the wheels were turning,” he told “Snapped.” “ Just didn’t seem normal. I never knew anything about any harder drugs than marijuana.”
When the Hobart Medical Examiner examined Jason’s body, he confirmed that he had been taking copious amounts of drugs, but it also showed that he had died from asphyxiation from strangulation.
“His manner of death was homicide,” Lake County Prosecutor Nadia Wardip told “Snapped.”
Police repeatedly interviewed Kelly Cochran and thought she was about to crack, but in late April 2016, she texted detectives telling them she was on the West Coast, living on the lam. Now the suspect in two deaths, both the Iron River and Hobart Police Departments issued warrants for her arrest. Detectives repeatedly texted her, hoping she would check her phone, and they could get a GPS reading on her. Eventually, they tracked her to her cousin’s home in Kentucky and arrested her on April 28, 2016.
In custody, Kelly soon told detectives everything they wanted to know and more. She said when she and Jason were married in 2002, they made a pact that if one of them ever cheated on the other, they would kill the person with whom they cheated. Furious about her ongoing affair with Chris Regan, Kelly claimed Jason forced her to lure him to their home, and while she was having sex with Regan, her husband shot him in the head. She said Jason dismembered Regan, and she later brought investigators to where pieces of his body were dumped. All police found was a skull with a bullet hole in it. The teeth matched Chris Regan’s.
According to court records, Kelly told detectives her affair with Regan was "the only good thing I had in my life." After his murder, she blamed her husband and decided to murder him.
“It was revenge,” she said. “I evened the score."
In early 2017, Kelly Cochran went on trial for taking part in the killing of Chris Regan and was found guilty on five counts, including first-degree murder, and was sentenced to life in prison, reported Michigan Live. Rather than go through a second trial for the murder of her husband, she pleaded guilty in April 2018 and was sentenced to an additional 65 years in prison, according to The Chicago Tribune.
While in custody, Kelly began making claims she and her husband might have committed other murders. In court filings, Iron County prosecuting attorney Melissa Powell said Cochran “claimed responsibility for the deaths of other individuals, which, if true, make her a serial killer.” In 2018, Investigation Discovery aired the docuseries "Dead North," which investigated the possibility that the Cochrans were serial killers. The show featured Iron River Police Chief Laura Frizzo, who was relieved from duty in December 2016, and included unsubstantiated allegations of the couple serving hamburgers made from Regan’s ground-up remains, as well as accusations from family members saying they may have killed nine other victims. To date, no further charges have been brought against Kelly Cochran.
[Photo: "Snapped" Screengrab]
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