Kym L. Pasqualini is the founder and former CEO of Nation's Missing Children Organization and National Center for Missing Adults.
Alisha Bromfield-Anicich, 21, was a graduate of Joliet Catholic Academy and a student at Western Illinois University. She was only one semester away from graduating with a degree in forensic psychology and criminal justice. Alisha was a go-getter and pursuing her dreams.
Alisha was also six months pregnant with a little girl she had named Ava. The baby’s father was not around, but that did not discourage her. Alisha was excited to become a mother. She purchased little outfits and baby items that she would need and planned on keeping her job at Home Depot, as it was seasonal employment and she had paid winters off. She was ready for single-motherhood and pursuing her career in forensic psychology. Sadly, in the summer of 2012, her excitement and plans were cut short.
Life at work
Brian Cooper, 36, was Alisha’s supervisor and she had worked with him for 5 years. Cooper was the regional manager at Home Depot garden centers in northern Illinois. He supervised her work and oversaw her work schedule and tasks. The two were not romantically involved but sometimes they would meet after work and Alisha would walk his dog for him from time to time.
Alisha was good at her job and being only 21 and a “soon to be” single mom, her job was especially important. However, her boss was an abusive bully on the job and off. Cooper was known to verbally abuse Alisha in front of coworkers and customers calling her a “whore” and a “slut.” At times, he would even throw things at her. Her family and friends felt she stayed because she did not want to lose her job.
Cooper would tell her to do something and threaten to fire her or cut her hours if she did not comply. He would often schedule Alisha to work when she had doctor’s appointments. His motive to spend more time with her. The admiration was not reciprocated, however.
Cooper told their coworkers that Alisha was his girlfriend, but she had repeatedly rejected him which frustrated him beyond words. According to the Capital Gazette, Alisha reported Cooper’s abuse to upper management, but nothing was done. She felt stuck in a job she loved with a manager who controlled her.
In August 2012, Cooper began harassing Alisha to attend his sister’s wedding and threatened to fire her if she did not go. He wanted her there as his date. Terrified of Brian of the potential of losing her job, Alisha agreed to go.
Her mother, Sherry Anicich, knew how Cooper treated her daughter and begged her not to go, but Alisha told her mom she had no choice. Alisha told Sherry that she had told Cooper they were just going as friends and would be returning the following morning.
“I think she was very afraid of losing her job, Sherry told True Crime Daily. “She had a baby coming to support and this job had offered her time off in the winter, with pay, and she never had that before, being only 21.”
Alisha told her mother the wedding party was staying at the same hotel, Sand Bay Resort in Door County, Wisconsin. Knowing her daughter would be accompanying the wedding party made Sherry feel better, but she could have never imagined what would happen on that fateful trip.
On August 17, 2012, Cooper and Alisha left to attend the wedding in Door County, approximately a four-hour drive from where she lived in Plainfield, Illinois. Alisha sent a text to her mother when they arrived telling her they had gotten in a fight and they were coming straight home. They had fought because Cooper had lied, and the wedding party was not staying at the same hotel. A couple of hours later, Alisha sent another text indicating she decided to stay.
With Cooper harassing Alisha and making unwanted sexual advances, she made the decision she had had enough. She told Cooper she would attend the wedding, but they would no longer be friends upon returning home. He was angered by this and would later tell the police; this is when he began having thoughts of hurting Alisha.
They attended the wedding and as the night went on Cooper’s rage grew with his intoxication. According to True Case Files, once Cooper and Alisha returned to their hotel room and in their separate beds, Brian began relentlessly trying to make plans to watch a movie with Alisha the following day. Alisha adamantly responded that they would no longer be friends upon their return home. Cooper snapped. He attacked Alisha on her bed and as she fought for her and her baby’s life, she cried, “think of the baby.” It did not stop him from dragging her onto the floor and strangling her, killing Alisha and her unborn baby.
It was several hours after Cooper killed Alisha in the hotel room, with his clothes dripping wet, he stumbled into a gas station. He then used the cashier’s phone to call the police to turn himself in. He told the 911 dispatcher that he had called to report the murder of Alisha Bromfield-Anicich.
According to True Crime Daily:
911 Dispatcher: “Do you know who murdered her?”
Brian Cooper: “Yes.”
911 Dispatcher: “You did. Okay. Was it an accident, or were you angry, or?”
Brian Cooper: “It was intentional.”
911 Dispatcher: “It was intentional? Okay. Well, you’re doing the right thing, I’m glad you called me.”
Brian Cooper: I’m a good person besides what I did last night. Alisha’s family is going to flip. Everyone is going to flip.”
Police responded immediately. With guns drawn, they arrested Cooper on the spot.
Door County Sheriff’s Investigator Mark Winkel was assigned to go to the resort where Alisha lay dead.
“When I arrived, after opening the door I could see a female decedent in her 20s,” Winkel told True Crime Daily. “She was laying on the floor. She was nude but did have a blanket covering her up to about her chest, and her head was on a pillow, and obviously deceased, but it just appeared like she was resting. A little closer examination of the body, you could see that there were injuries, bruising, scratch marks.”
Winkel left the resort and returned to the police station to interview Brian, who was ready to spill the grisly details of what he had done.
Winkel: And how do you know Alisha?”
Brian Cooper: “We’re coworkers, and we’re somewhat dating. Was. And she’s pregnant.”
Winkel: “She pregnant with your child?”
Brian Cooper: “No.”
Brian Cooper: “I’ve always wanted more but I always was respecting her because of her pregnancy.”
Brian proceeds to tell Winkel that they had argued earlier in the day and Alisha had given him an ultimatum.
Brian Cooper: “There wasn’t gonna be like a friendship after we got back.”
Brian went on to tell Winkel that when they returned to the resort, Alisha went to bed and fell asleep, and he began thinking about what she had said and that today was the day they would no longer be friends.
As Brian paced the hotel room, going outside to smoke a cigarette and coming back inside repeatedly, he became angrier. First, he thought about tying up Alisha’s legs with a cord from his computer or cell phone.
Alisha then woke up and Brian asked her if they could watch a movie together on Sunday. Alisha told him no. He then jumped on Alisha who was laying on her back.
Brian Cooper: Then I kinda just jumped on her bed.”
Winkel: “Okay was she on her back?”
Brian Cooper: “She was. And I jumped her, and she got scared, I got scared.”
Winkel: “So you were on top of her then. And you kind of straddled over her?”
Brian Cooper: “Yeah, and then I just started strangling her.”
According to Brian’s statements to police, Alisha started crying and begging him not to hurt her and the baby, but Brian choked the life out of both. However, killing Alisha was not enough for Brian. As he said in his graphic statements to investigators, the act of raping her corpse gives a glimpse into his complete depravity.
Cooper told investigators that he had “wanted to see what she looked like naked.” Then, shocking even seasoned detectives, he confessed he took Alisha’s clothes off and raped her corpse.
Winkel: “Did you have sex with her last night?”
Brian Cooper: “Yeah, after I strangled her.”
Winkel: “So after she’s dead you took her clothes off and then um she’s on the floor right?”
Brian Cooper: “Right. I just wanted to see her naked I guess.”
Winkel: “OK. And then did you take your clothes off, or were you already . . .”
Brian Cooper: “I just took my pants off.”
Winkel: How long did you have sex with her?
Brian Cooper: “Probably a minute or two, maybe three, tops.”
Cooper was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and third-degree sexual assault of a corpse. Police proceeded to book him into jail and photograph his injuries.
The police would later discover videos of Alisha as Cooper had been spying on her for quite some time. At the resort, he had placed a mini spy camera in the garbage can that recorded Alisha going to the bathroom. In Cooper’s home, he had drilled a small hole in a shelf across from his toilet. His obsession with Alisha was persistent and wicked.
Despite the horrific crimes Cooper had committed and the grotesque, detailed admission to police, Cooper entered a plea of not guilty. His defense was that he was too intoxicated to develop intent when he committed the murder.
This forced Alisha’s family to face her killer in court.
After five days of grueling testimony, listening to the 911 call and Cooper’s graphic interrogation, and sitting through Cooper testifying in his own defense, the case went to the jury.
Shockingly, it ended in a ten to two hung jury.
“I was so shocked that I walked out of the courtroom as soon as they said the hung jury. Even more shocking, they were women,” Sherry told True Crime Daily. “For two women to say that he was not guilty because they felt he was intoxicated after hearing all of the evidence was mind-boggling to me."
Cooper was found guilty of the third-degree sexual assault but now everyone feared he would not be held accountable on the two first-degree murder charges.
It took almost a year for the second trial to begin. Once again, Cooper would use the intoxication defense—and once again Alisha’s mother and family had to look at the killer and listen to his voice, making them physically ill.
This time, when the case went to the jury, they would have a verdict within one hour. The jury convicted Cooper on two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the murder of Alisha and her unborn daughter. Brian was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
Anger and grief
After sitting through two exhaustive trials, Sherry Anicich swore she never wanted to hear of another parent going through what she had to. Sherry dealt with overwhelming emotions, anger, and guilt. She tried to cope with her rage toward Cooper, and guilt thinking maybe, just maybe, there was more she could have done to save her daughter and unborn granddaughter’s lives.
Knowing that her anger could destroy her if she did not learn to let it go, it came to her that she had to replace the anger and focus on the love she had for her daughter and granddaughter. She vowed it was time for her family to honor Alicia and Ava by giving back.
It all started with Cooper’s trial, Sherry and her family were told by the judge that they were not permitted to wear anything with their daughter’s picture on it. In response, Sherry wore a purple dress, her daughter’s favorite color, to the arraignment. After that, she wore purple to every motion hearing as a declaration of love for her daughter. The news spread and family members and friends began wearing purple to court too.
With a mother’s heart forever crushed, Sherry mustered up the strength to find a way to help others. With twenty years of grief counseling experience and a fiery passion, that is when the Purple Project was born. The mission of the organization is to keep Alisha and Ava’s memories alive by extending love and hope to people in need. The organization provides financial and emotional support to single young mothers in need while also providing grief counseling and retreats for parents that have lost a child to murder.
Unbelievably, Sherry teamed up with Kellie Stryker, Cooper’s sister, in her mission to help others. Stryker is a social worker specializing in mental health, child abuse, and domestic violence.
“Fear is an emotion you can overcome,” Stryker told Shaw Media. “Once you overcome it, you can have your destiny be what you want it to be. You can be your own person.”
Stryker personally knows about fear. During her brother’s first trial she testified on his behalf that ended in a hung jury. But it bothered Stryker that Cooper refused to take responsibility for his actions.
“I had to do the right thing,” Stryker told the reporter at Shaw Media. “I had to speak out.”
Stryker called Sherry, unsure of the reception she would receive. Would Sherry be polite or hostile?
“I was very protective of my own self,” Sherry told Shaw Media, adding that her devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, provided her guidance and strength, “but then I decided to open my heart up.”
Stryker says she was moved by Sherry’s mission to keep her daughter’s memory alive and has become an inspiration to her. “She’s a selfless person just for giving me a chance to be in her life. It means the world.”
Sherry and Stryker now work together utilizing their experience to provide emotional support to new mothers and parents who have lost a child to murder.
Clearly, Alisha and Ava’s memory does live on through Sherry’s huge heart, selfless work, and those who have joined her in her meaningful pursuit to help others—and especially those people who Sherry and Purple Project have deeply touched.
© 2021 Kym L Pasqualini