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A Mississippi death row inmate’s hand-drawn map led to skeletal remains that authorities suspect belong to his sister-in-law, whose 2007 murder he confessed to prior to his execution.
David Neal Cox, who was executed on Nov. 17 in the separate 2010 slaying of his estranged wife and the sexual assault of her 12-year-old daughter, admitted to Felecia Cox’s murder weeks before he was put to death. The 51-year-old's lawyers later turned over a map indicating where he’d buried her body on a rural Cane Creek Road property he once owned outside Pontotoc.
Local investigators — aided by radar technology, cadaver dogs, satellite imagery and archeologists from Mississippi State University — discovered Felicia Cox’s body around 1 p.m. on Dec. 12. It took more than four hours to exhume her remains, officials said.
“This was an emotional day on so many fronts,” First Circuit District Attorney John Weddle told Oxygen.com on Tuesday. “It’s just kind of a roller coaster of emotions because you don’t know if you’re going to find anything and you don’t want to give false hope…It’s just a lot to unpack.”
The eleventh hour confession came after Cox expressed a “deep remorse” and desire to “bring closure” to Felecia Cox’s family, according to his post-conviction attorneys.
“We were elated that he actually went to the trouble of drawing a map for us and we were also elated that this is not going to be some search out in the middle of the woods somewhere,” Weddle said. “You’ve got things that you can reference from the map.”
The map, which largely sparked the discovery, he said, was provided to investigators by David Neal Cox’s legal team on Nov. 19, two days after he was executed.
“We had some doubts when we started digging,” Weddle stated. “We were told in November about a week prior to his execution that we would be getting information about the location of Felecia Cox’s body,” Weddle, who was on hand at the excavation site, said.
“We didn’t know how that was going to come to us," he added. "We didn’t know where it was going to come from. We were just told that a credible source would come forward within days after the execution and give that to us."
"It turned out that the credible source was one of his attorneys,” he said.
Felecia Cox’s suspected skeletal remains were ultimately found roughly 20 feet from a newly built concrete slab foundation for a house trailer a young family had been renting on her brother-in-law’s former property. The cause of death wasn’t released by officials, pending her official identification and a state medical examiner’s autopsy.
Cox’s map, drawn on loose leaf paper with a pencil or pen, proved to be incredibly accurate, officials said.
“It was certainly remarkable that the location was as accurate as it turned out to be,” Weddle added. “It’s remarkable how close his ‘x’ marks the spot was…Crude or not, it was very accurate.”
Weddle explained that a mobile home and two sheds that Cox had incorporated into his drawn map as reference points had since been dismantled, complicating search efforts. Investigators concocted a work around by comparing the map to 2007 satellite imagery of David Cox’s property, which depicted the since-destroyed structures.
“We were able to compare that with the current satellite images and do some overlays so that we could find the exact locations,” Weddle explained. “Once we were able to get some of that debris off you could see a discoloration in the earth, in the soil…and right underneath that is where the body was.”
Felecia Cox’s family was also on-hand to witness the exhumation of the long-missing Mississippi mother’s remains.
“It was like a weight lifted off our shoulders just knowing that she was there and we know where she is finally,” Felecia Cox’s daughter, Amber Miskelly, told Oxygen.com.
Miskelly, who works at a tire repair shop in Ripley, Mississippi, said she showed up at the dig site around 8 a.m. on Dec. 12.
“It was quite exhausting,” she said, explaining the bittersweet moment. “It was just hard for me to watch and keep watching and waiting.”
Miskelly is now anxiously awaiting identification of the exhumed remains. She submitted DNA to the county coroner on Sunday on site; it was then sent to the state medical examiner alongside the skeletal remains to identify whether they, in fact, belong to Felecia Cox. Authorities expect to obtain preliminary autopsy results within the week.
“I’m pretty confident that it’s her,” she said.
The day after the discovery, Miskelly picked out a burial plot for her mother, she said. The family is now tasked with possibly planning a funeral 14 years in the making.
“It’s still very hard,” Miskelly said. “I’m very grateful and thankful to everyone that’s helped me find her.”
The still-grieving 32-year-old also expressed gratitude towards her mother’s alleged, now-dead killer.
“I’d just have to tell him thank you for telling the truth about where she was,” Miskelly said. “Finding her meant everything to me, I can finally have a little peace, knowing where she is now and have her home. I’m thankful David told the truth about where her remains were.”
Felecia Cox vanished in July 2007 after visiting David Cox’s home. At the time, the 40-year-old Mississippi mother was married to Cox’s brother, Jeff Cox, her family said. For years, David Cox denied any involvement in her disappearance but was never charged.
In 2012, David Cox was sentenced to death for the murder of his wife, Kim Kirk Cox, and the sexual assault of her 12-year-old daughter, Lindsey Kirk, court records show.
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