A decades-old murder case in Missouri has been solved after investigators were able to use DNA evidence to link a convicted pedophile to the sexual assault and murder of a young girl in 1993.
Angie Housman was only 9 years old when she disappeared on her way home from school on Nov. 18, 1993, the New York Post reports. A deer hunter discovered her body in a wooded area nine days later, with a subsequent examination revealing she'd been sexually assaulted and left for dead, according to the publication. She died of hypothermia — handcuffed, and with her head wrapped in duct tape — mere hours before she was found tied to a tree, according to the Associated Press.
Prosecutors in St. Charles County announced Wednesday that Earl Webster Cox, a 61-year-old convicted child predator, has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, and sodomy in relation to Housman’s death, the AP reports.
“She was dehydrated, she was malnourished and she was alive when she was left out in the woods to die,” St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said.
Authorities were able to link Cox to the crime thanks to developments in forensic science, Lohmar said, according to NBC News. Investigators tested DNA found on the trimmings of Housman’s underwear, and by searching a national database for possible matches, they landed on Cox, a repeat offender.
“They were looking for a needle in a haystack without a magnet and still found the needle,” Lohmar said, according to the Post.
Cox is currently in custody in a North Carolina prison after federal courts concluded that Cox, who has a history of child-related offenses and accusations, is a “sexually dangerous person,” according to KMOV, a CBS-affiliate based in St. Louis, Missouri. However, he is set to be extradited to Missouri in a matter of weeks, the outlet reports.
Cox joined the Air Force in 1975, but was dishonorably discharged five years after he joined the service after being convicted of molesting four young girls between the ages of 7 and 11 during his time stationed in Germany, St. Louis’ KSDK reports. He was sentenced to eight years but only served five, and once his sentence was up, he returned to his hometown of St. Louis, where he would be accused of crimes against children numerous times.
He was arrested again in 2002 after pursuing someone online who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl, KSDK reports. The girl, who he requested be his “sex slave,” was actually an FBI agent, and Cox was arrested, with the resulting investigation revealing his role in an online child pornography ring. He was sentenced to 10 years behind bars and remained imprisoned after his sentence came to an end in 2011 after a federal court found him likely to repeat the same offenses if released, the outlet reports.
Lohmar said Wednesday that it is too early to say whether Cox will face the death penalty. There may also be others facing charges alongside him, as officials believe that Cox may not have been working alone when he allegedly killed Housman, KMOV reports.
“We have reason to believe that Earl W. Cox was not the only suspect ... we do believe that it was very possible that another person was involved,” Lohmar said.
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