In July of 1998, Eric married Kimberly, and their marriage lasted a year. Before divorcing Kimberly, he married April. Eric and April divorced in January 2000.
By March 2000, Eric was married again, this time to Paula. They divorced in January 2002. According to Texas marriage records, Eric Cooper then married another woman named April before he divorced Paula. This April filed bigamy charges against Eric.
It turned out that while married to both Paula and April, Eric was engaged to Brandy, who gave birth to another of Eric's daughters.
He then married Jennifer in 2004. Later that year, Eric married Krystal in Las Vegas. Krystal soon discovered that he was a fraud and threw him out. On that same day, he landed on Tonya's doorstep. He proposed to her a few weeks later.
According to all of these womens' stories, Eric's technique was to wow a woman with his false résumé—which often included references to him being a Navy SEAL or a pilot, including a crisp, white Navy uniform, and being orphaned and raised by abusive foster parents. He would then ingratiate himself to the women's families and propose marriage within weeks of dating.
"He would tell me he wanted a baby," Melissa says. "He said his mom died when he was young and his dad was never there for him. He wanted to be the father that he never had."
Like many of the women, Melissa says Eric displayed a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" split personality. "One day he would just be so sweet and loving and then, like, the next day, all of a sudden, he would blow up. He'd be throwing stuff around and push you around," she says.
"He stole four checks from my great-grandmother, wrote one, made it out to me for $4,000, forged my name to the back of it and deposited it into my checking account," April, Eric's fifth wife alleges. "He also wrote three other checks to pay off some credit cards."
"When I was four months pregnant with my daughter, he grabbed me by my neck and put me on the ground," Brandy says. "Later, when she was born, he broke a family portrait over our head. That same night, he pulled a gun on me, telling me and my daughter we were worthless. ... After I got our daughter calmed down and got her to sleep, he came in [our bedroom] with a Taser [an electric-shock gun] and shocked me while I was trying to sleep."
Eric would try to explain his abuse, Krystal says, using his "military background" as an excuse.
After money supposedly started disappearing from checking accounts and seemingly shady transactions were uncovered, Lynn says she checked into her new son-in-law's background.
Lynn began to easily see through Eric's phony stories. She says she found records of several marriages and divorces, a criminal record and prison time. Additionally, Eric had told Krystal and her family that he had recently moved to Texas from California, when, in fact, he'd lived at eight or nine different addresses in north Houston.
When her mother came to her with this information, Krystal was not surprised and ready for action. "I said, 'What do we do?'" she says. "I knew that he wasn't who he said he was. I knew that there was something behind him that wasn't real."
Our producer met with Eric at the jail, but his attorney would not allow him to talk with us on camera. Eric did, however, tell the Houston Chronicle that the allegations against him are done out of spite.
"My lesson for everybody all the time is the same lesson that Glinda the Good Witch told Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz: You've always had it. You've always had the power," Oprah says. "If you'd said, 'No, I never saw a sign, I never heard a thing, I never felt [Eric was bad news],' it means that you're deadened inside yourself and you weren't able to hear it."
All of these women were made vulnerable by their emotional neediness, Dr. Robin says, and Eric was able to "sniff out" that they were weak and vulnerable. These women believed that they were insufficient on their own, so his con was sure to work on them. The goal for these and all women is to repair their spirits and eliminate this feeling.
"[Women are] looking for Prince Charming. I'm always telling people he's not coming! He's the one who sweeps you off your feet, but the person who sweeps you off your feet sweeps you away from your life," Dr. Robin says. "He takes you away from your soul and your spirit. You don't want somebody sweeping you off your feet. Instead, find a way to feel good about yourself. If you want to be rescued and swept off your feet, you're in trouble already."