Bryan Kocis had lost nearly everything, until he got an email. It was a message from a young man named Danny Moilin, who was interested in coming to work in Kocis' gay porn empire. Kocis said he could stay in the house for the night; they would discuss filming the next day. Just a few hours later Kocis would be brutally murdered, and his home set on fire.
Danny Moilin was not Danny Moilin. He was actually another player in the porn industry named Harlow Cuadra. Kocis had been running a successful porn studio known as Cobra Films. His cash cow was a young man named Sean Lockhart, who became famous for his youthful look. Lockhart was approached by Cuadra and his partner, Joseph Kerekes, who were in debt and needed a star to sell their own brand. The only person standing in the way of their fortune was Kocis. So Cuadra and Kerekes devised a plan to kill him.
This is the premise for Andrew Stoner's book Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice. The rights to the book were purchased and are currently being made into a movie. The filming just wrapped up this fall. The film will star James Franco; something that Hoosier author, Stoner, is particularly excited to see.
"I am a big fan of James Franco," says Stoner. "It's exciting to think I might get to meet him at some point. I would love to invite him to one of my classes. He is a real titan of social media; I teach a social media class, so he would fit right in."
Stoner left Indiana in 2010 to complete his PhD in Colorado. Eventually he landed at the California State University in Sacramento, where he teaches public relations.
But before leaving his home state, Stoner had become accustomed to dealing with crime and media. Stoner was former governor Frank O'Bannon's deputy press secretary and the public information officer for IMPD. The connection to "true crime" goes back to his family roots. His brother is a police officer and Stoner used to write about crime for The South Bend Tribune.
"We grew up with a scanner in the kitchen," says Stoner. "That was just normal in our house. ... My brother had a huge desire to be a police officer ... and I worked at Indianapolis Police for several years. I was their second civilian in the role of PIO."
He was in that role when Mike Tyson was arrested for rape.
"[Working with the police] confirmed a lot of what I have since learned about the nature of crime," says Stoner.
He recalls being at IMPD looking up at bulletin boards of criminals who the officers knew were guilty, but they didn't have what they needed to make an arrest.
"When I read the autopsy report in the Cobra case — with a slit throat and almost decapitated head — most people would read that and cringe," says Stoner. "I read that and thought, well, this is fairly typical. With a very personal crime like this people act in really horrific ways."
Stoner's first book was a biography on governor O'Bannon. His second book followed murders around the state. Once that was finished, Stoner wasn't.
"I was kind of looking for the next thing," says Stoner. "I wasn't done with true crime"
He began following Kocis' murder case.
Stoner found a blog written by Peter Conway, who was also following the case. The two eventually decided to write a book on the subject.
Conway, an independent computer consultant, had never written a book before but did used to live in the same building as two of men who were convicted for the murder.
"An amateur sleuth is what I would call him," says Stoner. "I remember one of my first messages to him, I thought he was either a law school student or a reporter because he had, well, we used to call it being a bloodhound in journalism."
Between the two of them, the reporting lead to a compelling narrative of betrayal, crime and human nature.
Stoner visited the crime scene and interviewed Joseph Kerekes in prison. He recalls how open and calm Kerekes was when he spoke about slitting someone's throat.
Stoner's interest in crime has been accused of being an exhalting of criminals.
"People have one of two reactions when they see true crime stuff of any kind," says Stoner. "They either are really attracted to it and can't get enough of it, or they are just really repelled and look at you very strangely and wonder what's wrong with you, why does that hold your interest.
"I don't want to celebrate perpetrators," says Stoner. "I am a liberal democrat but I still want criminals in jail."
Authors: Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway
Price: $10- $14