Sonora, California – Tuolumne County District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke announced today that on Tuesday, October 18, 2022, the Board of Parole Hearings approved a parole panel’s April 27, 2022 grant of parole to convicted murderer Michael Allen Cook. On September 23, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom referred Cook’s grant of parole for review by the entire Board of Parole Hearings who asked the Board to evaluate if Cook had sufficiently mitigated his risk for intimate partner violence and his risk factor for alcohol relapse. Because Cook’s minimum eligible parole date was November 16, 2018, he was immediately eligible for release on parole. Having been convicted of murder, Cook will be on parole for life, and he is not being paroled to Tuolumne County.
In 2004, Cook pled guilty to second degree murder in the August 2003 murder of Mary Bisbing, who was then Cook’s girlfriend. On August 16, 2003, Cook stabbed Bisbing once in the back during a verbal argument in their kitchen. Cook retrieved a second knife and chased a running Bisbing into their living room where she tripped. Cook then got on top of Bisbing and brutally stabbed her three more times in the chest. After she died, Cook moved her into their bedroom, and covered her with clothing, carpet, and an ironing board. Leaving her there, Cook stole Bisbing’s credit cards and vehicle and drove to Fresno where he began to hitch-hike across country to Illinois where his ex-wife lived. Based on his ex-wife’s tip, Cook was apprehended in Metropolis, Illinois, and transported back to California by Tuolumne County Sheriff’s investigators. The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney James Newkirk and investigated by Tuolumne County Sheriff’s then-Investigator Neil Lillie.
Unfortunately, this was not Cook’s first act of violence against Bisbing, or against other women with whom he had a romantic relationship. During their two-year long relationship, there were numerous other instances where law enforcement was called to Bisbing’s residence for incidents of domestic violence by Cook on Bisbing. Indeed, Cook had been released from the Tuolumne County Jail a mere twelve days before the murder, after he pled guilty to a felony violation of Penal Code section 591 [cutting a telephone utility line] from a domestic violence incident between him and Bisbing. Moreover, Cook had previously sustained two criminal convictions in 1995 and 1998 for domestic violence against his only other two long-term intimate partners.
Cook was assessed by a forensic psychologist in 2021 as having a low risk for recidivism. Cook engaged in rehabilitative programming to address the issues leading to his murder of Bisbing. However, of great concern for the District Attorney’s Office, Cook married a woman he met while she was teaching his Alternatives to Violence Program at Ironwood State Prison. The Board cited his new wife’s knowledge of domestic violence as a protective factor for preventing future violence against her.
The commissioners from the Board of Parole deliberated for approximately 30 minutes and ultimately found that Cook no longer represented an unreasonable risk to public safety. District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke – who has appeared with Ms. Bisbing’s family at every parole hearing – virtually appeared with Bisbing’s family at the hearing and vehemently opposed Cook’s release in April 2022 and again before the Board on October 18, 2022.
District Attorney Jenecke states, “I’ve been honored to walk this path with Mary’s family – her daughter Michelle, her son-in-law Dan, her sister-in-law Judith, and her sisters Pamela and Vivian. It was in Mary’s memory that we fought each year to keep murderer Cook behind bars. We’re disappointed with the Board’s decision and believe that Cook continues to pose an unreasonable risk to safety. Mary’s story could be anyone’s story. If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, then please contact law enforcement or Center for A Nonviolence Community at their 24-hour crisis line (209) 533-3401.”