The Murder of Scott Drake

On September 24, 2000, Scott Drake was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and disemboweled by Joseph Cornelius.


Scott Drake, 11, left his grandmother’s house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to ride his bike. Scott had been riding down East Ohio Street when he came into contact with. Cornelius spoke to Scott and convinced him to follow him to a desolate field along the 800 block of East Ohio Street.


According to court documents, Cornelius had bumped into a young boy, Scott. Scott had asked Cornelius multiple questions while he was out panhandling. Cornelius then took Scott to a remote field where he drinks beer. Court documents state at this point Cornelius claims he gave Scott $5.00 so he could perform oral sex on him. During the sex act, Scott said he did not like doing it, and Cornelius stopped. Then Cornelius claimed Scott was interested in his radio and reached for it, which caused him to get angry. Cornelius then grabbed Scott, threw him on the ground, sat on his chest and stomach, and strangled him to death. After killing him, Cornelius then placed Scott on his stomach and put his hands behind his back, trying to make it seem as if “a pedophile committed the crime.”

Cornelius left Scott in the field and went to get drinks in a nearby bar. After having a few drinks, Cornelius went back to where he left Scott and decided he would stage the crime scene.

Cornelius found a broken and discarded beer bottle. Using the broken bottle, Cornelius removed Scott’s penis and testicles. He then disemboweled Scott, using the broken bottle to cut open Scott’s stomach and chest. According to court documents, he then “played with his organs and pulled his intestines out a little.” He then collected evidence from the scene, which included his radio, the glass bottle, Scott’s genitals, and Scott’s pants into a plastic bag and threw it into the river from the 9th Street Bridge.

Search for Scott

After Scott did not make it home, he was reported missing around 11:45 p.m. on September 24, 2000. A search was launched and detectives found Scott’s remains around 9:45 on September 25, 2000.

After the first interview with Cornelius, police learned information that two other people, a police officer and a nurse, had seen a homeless man talking to a boy with a bike. They both recalled seeing the two speaking around 7:00 p.m. on September 24, 2000.


A tow-truck driver who had been on East Ohio Street recalled seeing Cornelius come from the field where Scott’s remains would later be found. The tow-truck driver had recognized Cornelius as a man who he gave money to regularly. Police officers who worked in the area knew Cornelius to be a panhandler, too.

On September 26, 2000, a police sergeant located Cornelius and interviewed him. During the interview Cornelius told police he had been in the area where Scott’s remains were found around 8:00 a.m. on September 24, 2000, drinking several beers while waiting for the local bar to open. He stated around 11:00am he went to the bar to watch a football game. Cornelius continued, telling police after the game, around 5:00-5:30 p.m., he took a bus to West Liberty Avenue, and sat in front of an abounded house he had been staying in. He arrived around 7:00 p.m. Cornelius would deny ever seeing a young boy riding his bike. After the interview, which lasted about 3 hours, police dropped off Cornelius. He was not considered a suspect at the time, but police thought he may have been a witness to the murder.

Police asked Cornelius to come back in for questions. Though he was not under arrest, the detectives read him his Miranda rights. He gave a similar story as the first time and spoke to investigators for an hour. Cornelius had an outstanding warrant for an unrelated crime; he was arrested at the end of the interview and was brought to the county jail.

On September 27, 2000, homicide detectives interviewed Cornelius again. During this interview, he stated he did not leave the area immediately after the football game, but stood in the area to panhandle.

The day following the confession, Cornelius showed police the different locations where he was on the day of the murder, including where he threw the bag from the bridge. A dive team searched for the bag but could not recover it.

Arrest, Trial, & Sentencing

Police arrested Cornelius and charged him with second degree murder, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, and two charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. A jury found Cornelius guilty of all counts on October 6, 2001.

On February 28, 2002, a judge sentenced Cornelius to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is currently serving his sentence.

Cornelius appeal his sentence and was denied. To read the court document, click here.

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