ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV.com) – Detectives used DNA evidence to identify a suspect in 9-year-old Angie Housman’s 1993 death, according to a probable cause statement released Wednesday which outlined the charges and details of the crime.
Earl Webster Cox, 61, was charged with murder, kidnapping and sodomy Wednesday, 26 years after Angie Housman was kidnapped after getting off a school bus in St. Ann. Cox is currently civilly confined in a North Carolina prison after being deemed a “sexually dangerous person” by federal courts due to unrelated criminal convictions. He will be extradited to Missouri in upcoming weeks.
After the kidnapping, authorities allege Cox took Housman to a secluded area in the August A. Busch Wildlife area off Highway 94 in St. Charles County, where he sexually assaulted her and left her tied to a tree to die.
Her body was found by a deer hunter on November 27, 1993, nine days after her abduction. An autopsy performed a day after her body was discovered indicated she died of hypothermia.
According to investigators at the time, the 9-year-old had only been dead for a few hours when she was found.
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar, when asked if he'll seek the death penalty against Cox, said it was too early to know, but added "the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst and this one seems certainly along those lines."
Lohmar added there could be more arrests in the case, saying it's possible he did not act alone. Lohmar said there was no evidence to suggest there was a struggle during the abduction.
“The way the evidence unfolded at the crime scene, the way she clearly was held for a period of time at a particular location, and then transported to the woods, which was obviously another location; just some other things we observed at the crime scene, it would lead us to believe he did not act alone. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t act alone, but there’s a hunch for all of these guys involved that there could possibly be another person involved." Lohmar said. "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."
Cox was not considered a suspect during the initial investigation.
"We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of leads, he did not appear on anyone's radar," Lohmar said. "He was on a list of several hundred if not a thousand known sex offenders in the St. Louis area."
“It’s easy to say, as we sit here and Monday morning quarterback it, ‘Well why didn’t you go talk to him? Why didn’t you follow that lead up?’ It’s not that simple. It’s a manpower issue. Even if they had followed up with him - or anyone on that list - without scientific evidence to pin him down, without other circumstantial evidence, without other eye witness evidence, it would be very difficult to form a suspect out of a simple name on a list.”
"Nobody saw anything, that’s what made it so hard," Lohmar said, of the day of the abduction. "There was a lady who watched kids get off the bus to make sure everyone is okay. She wasn’t there that day."
DNA Leads to Charges
In early 2019, A St. Charles County forensic scientist analyzed pieces of clothing found at the 1993 scene and look for DNA samples. In late February, detectives were notified DNA came back from two people: Cox and Housman. Cox was initially identified through an online DNA database and was retested with his consent, the probable cause statement said. For the portion consistent with Cox's DNA, only one in 58.1 trillion unrelated individuals, selected at random, could be expected to have that same profile.
When asked if other DNA was found, leading to suspicion about a second suspect, Lohmar spoke broadly.
“There’s other DNA samples out there. I’m not prepared to comment on it yet. But those are certainly places that give us a launching point for pursuing other leads.”
Cox has lengthy criminal background
-- In their charging documents and from additional research done by News 4, it’s clear Cox has a lengthy criminal background, including convictions of child sexual assault and child pornography.
-- Cox joined the Air Force in 1975 and was dishonorably discharged in 1982 due to sex offenses involving four girls while in Germany. As a result, Cox was court martialed and sentenced to eight years in prison.
-- In 1985, Cox was released from prison and placed on federal parole. Three years later he transferred his parole supervision to Missouri, and moved to the 3400 block of Wismer Avenue, in Breckenridge Hills. This address, according to the probable cause statement, is one-quarter mile from where Housman was abducted four years later.
-- In October 1989, Cox was a suspect in the sexual abuse of two girls investigated by the Overland Police Department. Those crimes were alleged to have happened at Mort Jacobs Park, which is located behind Buder Elementary, the school Housman attended. Cox was eventually charged in connection to those offenses, but the charges were later dropped.
-- As a result of those 1989 charges, Cox’s parole federal parole was revoked, and he was returned to Leavenworth Prison.
-- Additionally, prosecutors said, it was determined during the early 2019 investigation of Housman’s murder, that Cox committed additional violent sexual offenses against one of the two girls in Overland. They said charges are pending in that case out of St. Louis County. St. Louis Prosecutor Wesley Bell says his office must interview the victim first and hopes to do that within the next week.
-- In December 1992, Cox was released from Leavenworth Prison and he moved back to the St. Ann and later Ferguson. Cox’s sister lived in Overland, very near the school Housman attended and less than a mile from where she was seen alive.
-- In 1997, Cox became involved in a child pornography network known as the "Brotherhood," which facilitated the international distribution of child pornography, officials wrote in court documents.
-- In November 2002, Cox exchanged sexually explicit emails with someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl but was really an undercover FBI agent.
-- In 2003, he was arrested and afterwards, agents conducted a search of his of computer and found more than 45,000 still images and videos of child porn, including children as young as three.
-- Cox was found guilty in 2003 of a number of charges, including attempted enticement of a minor to travel in interstate commerce, possession of child pornography and 19 counts of receiving child pornography. He was sentenced to serve 120 months in federal prison.
-- Cox was scheduled to be released in 2011, but a number of doctors testified that he had no empathy for his victims and said that he would have difficulty in refraining from sexual violent conduct in the future.
-- In 2012, he was deemed a “sexually dangerous person” and ordered to be criminally confined under the Adam Walsh Act – which allows authorities to keep a convict beyond their sentence, if a panel of experts deem the person is likely to re-offend. He has been incarcerated ever since.
Searching for answers
Angie Housman’s Angels for Justice is made of a group of local moms who’ve met and united to work towards a common goal: to bring Housman’s killer to justice.
The women have no direct ties to Housman or her family but have pushed for years for local police to continue investigating.
Trisha Trout with Angie’s Angels said she has mixed emotions about police finally tracking down a suspect.
“She was just a little 9-year-old girl who wanted to go home to her house,” Trout said. “I’m angry at who did this, they are an evil monster and we told them a while ago that we were coming for them ... how does it feel to know that three moms got you?”