Twenty-five years ago, Bill Cosby’s only son Ennis Cosby was killed after he stopped to fix a flat tire on Interstate 405 in the Bel-Air neighborhood, Los Angeles, California. Interstate 405 is said to be one of the most congested roadways.
Ennis Cosby had flown to Los Angeles to visit friends in 1997. On January 16 that year, 27-year-old Ennis Cosby, who was dyslexic and a graduate student in special education at Columbia University Teachers College, was driving his mother’s Mercedes-Benz convertible on Interstate 405 when he pulled off to Skirball Center Drive to change his flat tire.
Ennis Cosby then called Stephanie Crane, the woman he was seeing, to come and help. Reports said she stopped behind Ennis Cosby and asked him to call a tow truck to help but Ennis Cosby later said he could change the tire himself. Crane went back to her car. Immediately, Mikhail Markhasev, a Ukrainian-born teenager, appeared by her window. 18-year-old Markhasev and two friends were at a nearby park-and-ride lot using the phone when they saw Crane and Ennis Cosby.
Markhasev moved towards Crane’s car in an attempt to rob her. She drove off, frightened. Markhasev, who was said to be high on drugs, then approached Ennis Cosby to rob him but when Ennis Cosby took too long to bring out the money he had on him, he was shot and killed.
Ennis Cosby’s tragic death shocked his family and the world at the time. It took a tip from one of his killer’s former friends to close the case. “He was my hero,” Bill Cosby said in an interview after his son’s murder.
Born on April 15, 1969, Ennis Cosby came into the world at a time when his father had become a popular comedian. Bill Cosby started his stand-up act in the clubs of Philadelphia and then in NYC at The Gaslight Cafe in 1961 before launching one of the most successful sitcoms of all time called The Cosby Show in the 1980s.
Glad to have had a son after having two daughters, Bill Cosby’s son Ennis Cosby became the inspiration for the character of Theo Huxtable on the hit TV sitcom “The Cosby Show,” which ran from 1984 to 1992. Theo Huxtable was a student who beat his learning disability. His story was similar to Ennis Cosby’s, who took special classes after being told he was dyslexic. He went on to perform incredibly well academically and studied at Morehouse College in Atlanta before moving to the Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City.
He was working towards his Ph.D. in special education when he was murdered.
“I believe in chances, so I do not give up on people or children,” Ennis Cosby wrote in an essay, according to The Washington Post.
After Ennis Cosby’s murder in January 1997, National Enquirer offered $100,000 for any information on his death. That was when Christopher So, a former friend of Markhasev, contacted the police saying that Markhasev had been bragging about shooting a nigger. In March, police arrested Markhasev and later found the gun he had been accused of using and discarding. The gun was wrapped in a hat that contained DNA evidence connecting Markhasev to the crime. In July 1998, he was found guilty of first-degree murder and later sentenced to life in prison.
Ennis Cosby’s family blamed American racism for his death. “All African-Americans, regardless of their educational and economic accomplishments, have been and are at risk in America simply because of their skin colors,” Ennis Cosby’s mother, Camille, wrote in July 1998.
At the time also, Markhasev was also denying that he had shot Ennis Cosby. It was in 2001 that he confessed his guilt and said he was stopping his appeals process “because it’s based on falsehood and deceit.” He also apologized to the Cosby family.
Nearly two decades later, Bill Cosby would be accused of sexual assault by scores of women, bringing more woes for the Cosby family.