Cockman was missing since he met with a couple about buying his sport utility vehicle. The couple was arrested in what federal authorities believe was a bungled carjacking.
Cockman, of Greenville, SC, had been missing since Sept.14, when he was to meet David Wendell Edens and Jennifer Annette Holloway, the police said. Authorities were quoted as saying that Cockman may have suffocated from duct tape that Edens, 34, and Holloway, 27, used to cover his mouth. An autopsy will be performed.
"The interpretation I have right now is that his death was an accident," R. Joe Clark, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Knoxville, told a news conference yesterday. Edens and Holloway were taken into custody at their rural Smoky Mountains home and charged with carjacking. They appeared in federal court Thursday in Knoxville and were being held by U.S. marshals. Additional charges for kidnapping and possibly for murder were expected, Clark said. State kidnapping charges were filed in South Carolina.
In a statement to authorities, Holloway said she and Edens met Cockman, forced him into the Suburban, placed duct tape over his mouth and drove directly to their home.
"When they got here they realized their victim was dead," Clark said. "Mr. Edens put him in a deep freeze and took the (body) to a storage facility and left it there. Why, I don't know."
Clark said the FBI was able to identify Holloway's cell phone number and track it to Sevierville. Authorities obtained a search warrant and went to the couple's home.
Clark said Edens refused to talk to authorities, who recovered Cockman's Suburban at the home.
Holloway had only misdemeanor arrests for shoplifting and forged checks in her past. Edens' criminal history was unknown.
Cockman came to Greenville in 1985 as chairman and chief executive of Sara Lee's PYA/Monarch division, then became chairman of Sara Lee Foodservice before retiring in 1992. Foodservice industry insiders have said that Cockman was a well-like executive and a lovely man.