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Rites Held for Woman Killed in Stolen Name Plot

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Friends and family of Stella Sproule grieved at her funeral Saturday and shook their heads in disbelief, reflecting on a world where a person could be used and tossed aside with such ease by another.

About 200 mourners packed the church where Sproule was a faithful and involved member. Meanwhile, the woman accused of plotting Sproule’s death and trying to assume her identity remained in a Mississippi jail.

Mary Wittacker, one of the mourners, described how Sproule went to meet Annie Cole, a former co-worker, with a resume by her side, sure that she was going to finally get a full-time job.

“She was so nice she didn’t know what she was getting into,” Wittacker said.

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Police said they agree. They say that Cole, 32, asked to meet Sproule during her lunch hour to give her a job application.

But instead, police say, Cole had promised a nephew and one of his friends $5,000 each to abduct and kill Sproule. When Sproule’s body was found May 3, police say, Annie Cole went to the scene, identified herself as “Betty Cole” and said the victim was her sister--Annie Cole.

“Betty Cole” then told a Detroit funeral home operator that she wanted her sister’s body cremated, with no service and without visitation by the family.

The day before the body was to have been cremated, police suspected that “Betty Cole” did not exist.

They proved it when Annie Cole’s brother looked at Sproule’s body and said it did not look like his sister, and when a department store reported that a woman was using a credit card issued in the name of Stella Sproule--whose relatives had reported her missing by then.

Cole, who police said was seeking to escape a criminal past including bad-check charges and a parole violation, was arrested Tuesday in Indianola, Miss., where she had fled to stay with relatives. She said she will not fight extradition to Michigan to face a felony murder charge, officials said. The teen-agers were arraigned Thursday on murder and armed robbery charges.

Detroit Police Sgt. Christopher Buck said Saturday that he did not expect Cole to appear for an extradition hearing until at least Monday.


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