Whether you’re buying gifts, organizing get-togethers, or simply struggling to feel as “festive” as everyone around you, the holidays can be a pretty stressful time for just about everyone. Even the most even-keeled among us can find ourselves a little overstressed during that time of year.
By all appearances, Chelsea Cook was a normal, if a little high-strung, health teacher. She had worked at Skyridge High School in Utah for the past four years and was even slated to teach yoga in the coming semester. But all of those plans changed with the arrival of the holidays…
26-year-old Lisa Williams was pretty excited about the holidays. This year, Christmas time represented a chance for her to really connect with her boyfriend Travis’ children. The twin three-year-olds were both still young enough that they wouldn’t resent her of course, but she still had planned a fun activity to further ingratiate herself towards them.
It wasn’t just about getting them to like her, either. Lisa truly wanted to do something fun with her boyfriend and the kids. She wanted to bring them a little bit of Christmas cheer in the wake of the difficult divorce they had all been facing for a few years at that point. Their plan was to make homemade Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree with. But it seemed that was not to be.
Love and Kindness
Lisa was the type of person who gave all of herself to others. She bought dying plants in order to nurse them back to help. On her 16th birthday, she apparently saved enough money to buy gifts for everyone else in her family, just because she wanted to show her appreciation. She loved books and perhaps more importantly, she loved children.
It was because of this love of children that she’d left early from her own family’s Thanksgiving dinner to come to her boyfriend’s house and decorate with Travis’ kids. She’d even brought a brand-new popcorn popper with her for the occasion. She was excited to give the kids something happy to latch onto. Their mother obviously had other plans.
32-year-old health teacher Chelsea Cook was feeling the stress of the holidays. She was trying to come to terms with the fact that her ex-husband was seeing someone else, a woman several years younger than herself. Not only that, but the woman had somehow insinuated herself into the lives of her children.
Cook had come to her Travis’ suburban Salt Lake City apartment on the pretense that she was delivering cold medicine to one of their sick 3-year-olds. Her husband had been reticent about her coming of course, given her unabashedly negative opinion of Lisa, his current girlfriend, but his child did need the medicine.
When Cook arrived, Travis went out into the parking lot. A moment after she’d entered the house, Cook locked the door. What happened next is mostly unknown to anyone but Lisa, Cook, and the twins. The only clue was the 911 call that she ended up making from the locked bathroom in the apartment.
Grabbing a Gun
It’s not clear what she told the operator, but by the time the police arrived, Lisa Williams was dead, shot several times by Cook’s registered firearm. As to why she had felt it necessary to pull the gun, that seems to be between Cook and Lisa. Unfortunately, Lisa was in no position to offer any sort of explanation.
Cook and her Travis had divorced in August of 2017 but lived together until October of that year when she was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in the presence of a child. She pleaded not guilty to it of course, but it was obviously enough of a reason for the ex to retain custody of their children in the interim.
Lisa was hit twice in the torso and fell back onto the couch. Meanwhile, Cook sat down in a chair near the two terrified three-year-olds. Travis, meanwhile, had managed to get back into the apartment and took the gun from Cook. She tried to grab her coat and leave, but he pinned her to a wall and waited for police to arrive.
The police took Cook into custody and paramedics arrived to try and stabilize Lisa. Unfortunately, in the time it took for the ex to subdue Cook and the emergency team to get her to the hospital, Lisa’s condition had worsened to the point of no return. Sadly, Lisa Williams died at a hospital later that night. She never got to finish trimming their tree.
Signs of Trouble
Lisa’s murder came in the wake of a number of separate and admittedly, telling incidents involving her and Cook. Apparently angry that Travis had begun dating another woman, Cook had allegedly targeted her with online bullying and a few harassing in-person confrontations as well. These were the first signs something was amiss.
Keep in Contact
Lisa’s mother, Tawny Williams, had spoken to her about how worried she was for her safety. She made sure to talk to her daily just in case. When she couldn’t call, she would make sure that her sister did. Travis may have been a nice guy, but it was clear from his ex’s behavior that she was dangerous.
Cook’s harassment of Lisa had begun six months before the slaying when she began bullying her at the bank, on Instagram, and through very threatening phone calls. Many of these calls were made from the high school where Cook worked as a health teacher and though they were reported, it seemed the school did not deem it prudent to do anything about it.
Bekah Williams, Lisa’s sister, had apparently been the one to report the incidents to the school but her sister seemed reluctant to go any further than that or report it to the police. Her concern was that any involvement by the police would invariably make things harder on the children. This was something Lisa wanted to avoid at all costs.
Making it Harder
“In hindsight,” Bekah Williams explained. “I think the best thing for the kids would have been to call the police every time.” Considering that Cook eventually shot and killed a woman in front of them, this may have been prudent. As it was, school officials, including assistant to the superintendent Kimberly Bird, were unaware of the arrest.
Kimberly Bird is currently assistant to the superintendent at Alpine School District. Since finding out of Cook’s arrest, her superiors have sent out a letter terminating the former health teacher effective immediately. “Honestly, this news is just shocking and disturbing, I can’t explain it any other way,” Bird said in a recent interview.
Bird added that it’s a hard thing for her to process as an adult but that the news of Cook’s misdeeds will be even harder for her 14-year-old students to deal with. As of this writing, Cook has been arrested and subsequently charged with aggravated murder in the death of Lisa Williams.
Encouraging Last Words
Many are still at a loss to explain what might have caused Cook to go off the deep end. The final conversation between the two had been encouraging. Cook had even thanked Lisa for picking the twins up from daycare and they hadn’t even spoken in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. And yet something evidently must have enraged her.
Caring for Others
Lisa will be remembered fondly by all her family. She had spent her life caring for others and it is that memory that they will take with them as they lay her to rest. “She had a wise soul,” explains Bekah Williams. “I feel lucky to have had her in our lives.” Hopefully, the twins will also be able to remember her fondly, despite the harrowing end they witnessed.