On this day in 1997, comedian and TV star Bill Cosby’s 27-year-old son Ennis Cosby is murdered after he stops to fix a flat tire along California’s Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. The 405, which runs some 70 miles from Irvine to San Fernando, is known as one of the planet’s busiest and most congested roadways. Construction began on Interstate 405 in the late 1950s, with the first section opening in the early 1960s.
At approximately 1 a.m. on January 16, 1997, Ennis Cosby, a graduate student in special education at Columbia University Teachers College who was on vacation in Los Angeles, was driving a Mercedes-Benz convertible on Interstate 405 when he pulled off to Skirball Center Drive to change a flat tire. A Ukrainian-born teenager, Mikhail Markhasev, and two friends were at a nearby park-and-ride lot using the phone. Markhasev, reportedly high on drugs, approached Cosby to rob him but when Cosby took too long to hand over money he was shot and killed. Ennis Cosby was the third of Bill Cosby’s five children and said to be the inspiration for the character of Theo Huxtable on the hit TV sitcom “The Cosby Show,” which originally aired from 1984 to 1992.
In August 1998, Markhasev, then 19, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Cosby’s murder. During his trial, Markhasev reportedly showed no remorse for his crime; however, in 2001, he confessed his guilt, stopped his appeals process and apologized to the Cosby family.
Prior to the Cosby roadside homicide, Interstate 405 was in the news as the scene of the famous June 17, 1994, televised, low-speed police chase involving former football star O.J. Simpson in a white 1993 Ford Bronco driven by his former college teammate Al Cowlings. Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman had been found brutally murdered days earlier, on June 12. Simpson was later arrested for the murders. However, following a highly publicized trial, a jury found him not guilty on October 3, 1995.