04-24-2009, 11:14 AM #1
Suspect: Robert Craig Cox
Robert was convicted and sentenced to death row for the 1978 beating death of Sharon Zellers. He was acquitted and charges dropped in 1988 due to a FL Supreme Court decision to reverse the ruling because of lack of evidence. He is currently serving a life sentence with possibility of parole in 2026 for armed robbery and holding a 12 yr old girl hostage.
Robert's family lives in Springfield and Robert was in Springfield at the time of the abduction. He worked for CU at the time and commented to police that he would pose as a city employee to gain access to the house. He has made numberous statements indicating he knows what happened to the women but refuses to go any furthere than that for fear of more charges. It is unknown if Cox is just doing it for the attention, the fun of it or if he actually does know something. He wrote two letters to the Springfield NewsLeader which are posted below. He also did an in-depth interview with Dennis Graves of KY3 but I do not have a copy or link for that. Cox lied about his alibi to LE claiming he was with his girlfriend. During GJ proceedings his gf admitted to lying and that Cox was not with her that night after all......
Personally, I believe if Cox does know something he is holding his cards right now in hopes that when he comes up for parole in 2026 he will use that information to try and work out a deal.
Letters to the NewsLeader:
His Florida Appeal disputing the evidence in Sharon's Zeller's murders:
NYT Article about his acquittal:
Includes the story behind Sharon's murder:
http://springfield.news-leader.com/s.../day1_cox.html'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated'
05-07-2009, 02:33 AM #2
OK. We need to make better use of our new multiple threads. A couple of weeks ago, I was reading on the cold case Lizzie Borden thread, and carrie had posted a most interesting link to a "Statement Analysis" site. To give credit where it is due, carrie was passing along a link that kant had posted on another thread (maybe Caylee Anthony??) Anyhow, I clicked over to the site and was engrossed by the whole thing. In linguistics, I teach students to analyze apologies, especially celebrity apologies, which are often constructed to avoid all responsibility for the bad act they are supposedly apologizing for. So I know it is possible to examine the words, phrase structure, etc., to get at the real meaning, what the person is really saying. That is true even with skilled writers.
Here's an example. Justin Timberlake (or his PR flack) says, "I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl...It was not intentional and is regrettable." He is not sorry that he ripped Janet Jackson's top off and exposed her breast on national TV; he is sorry "that anyone was offended." Indeed. Because if we weren't so silly as to be offended, he wouldn't have to apologize. And we aren't offended by his actions--but by a "wardrobe malfunction." As my students point out, a wardrobe can't "malfunction." We don't know what the "it" is--Offending us? the wardrobe malfunction? Certainly not his actions. And no matter what "it" is--"it" was not intentional. But he regrets "it" anyway. <sigh> Not an apology on any level.
What I did was go through Cox's letters, looking at germane statements. Cox is actually a pretty good writer, in that he can manage a narrative sequence, stay focused on answering the reporters' questions, and write in grammatical sentences (meaning that the syntax or phrase structures are recognizably English) I DON"T mean that he writes in Standard English or doesn't make what school teachers would call errors (missing punctuation, writing "there" for "their"). Those things might be revealing, but in this case, not so much. I put my comments in italics and my conclusions at the end. Because this is long, I will break it into 4 chunks so that it will be easier for people to respond.
I know that one popular view is that Cox is playing with the police. I am sure that he is, and I am sure he enjoys the attention. But I also think he was involved in the case, based on what he says and doesn't say in these letters.
Once I post my first take on the letters, I am going to email the "statement analyis" expert to ask him to take a shot at these letters. If he responds, he may shoot me down, but that would be a step forward.
Here is the link to the site: http://www.statementanalysis.com/lying/
Last edited by pittsburghgirl; 05-07-2009 at 02:13 PM.
05-07-2009, 02:39 AM #3
5/19/97—Excerpt from letter to Springfield News-Leader
Cox is answering questions that a reporter has sent to him. In the section of the text pertaining to the 3MW case, he is actually recounting his VERSION of the interview with the three officers from Springfield.
The visit [from “Sgt. Routh, Cpl. Thomas and polygraphist Truly Applegate”] had surprised me and I almost refused the interview. But I decided to see what they wanted. I was soon to find out.
They asked the same old questions from before. I assume to see if I had the same answers. Then I asked some of my own question. I asked why they had subpoenaed the KY-3 tapes? They said for the Grand Jury. Then I asked, were they examined by a behavioral scientist? There answer was, “They were looked at by a lot of people.” Then I asked who had been subpoenaed by the Grand Jury. Cpl. Thomas told me the truth again when he said he had been, some people who I had worked with. My girlfriend and her two daughters and some other people. The questions about the three missing women are “the same old questions from before.” He does not mention the women at all, and certainly not by name. What interests him are his own questions about the GJ. Why would the first point that Cox recounts from this interview be his question about if the KY3 tapes were examined by a behaviorial scientist? And who all had been subpoenaed? One answer might be that in his mind, everything is about him. But it’s an odd question to ask police interviewers. And we should wonder what in the KY3 interview might interest behavioral scientist.
What Cpl. Thomas wanted to know is what I did on the following Sunday. I told him I didn’t remember.
In the 2002 letter to the N-L, Cox talks about knowing the police would want to talk to him about the disappearance of the women. (“ I had just gotten home from work when a police cruiser pulled up and two uniformed officers approached me and asked me where I was on the day of the disappearance. I told them and that was the last I heard from the Springfield police until I got convicted in Texas.”) In this letter he tells them he “can’t remember.”
Then he told me that I had told the two police officers who first approached me a week after the disappearance that I had gone to church with my girlfriend. At that time they contacted her. She confirmed my story. But at the Grand Jury hearing she said that she didn’t go to church with me, but was covering for me because I had called her and asked her to do that for me. Obviously they were concerned with this minor detail.
Note what he says: “She confirmed my story.” If he had told the truth, he might have said, “She confirmed that we were together” or “confirmed where I was” or “confirmed that I went to church with her.” He recounts his girlfriend’s GJ statement: “she said that she didn’t go to church with me, but was covering for me because I had called her and asked her to do that for me.” But he doesn’t deny anything in the statement: that she didn’t go to church with him, that she was “covering for him” and that he had “asked her to do that for him.” The girlfriend’s statement begs the question of what she was covering for. And why he had to call her to ask her to cover for him.
Then they asked me about the golf tournament. They had checked into this story and confirmed it. “This story,” as opposed to the other story, as opposed to “where I was.”
But the golf tournament was over by seven o’clock. What did I do after the tournament. I really couldn’t remember since it was so long ago. (What did you have or dinner two weeks ago?” Most people can’t even remember that.) Attempt to convince reader he is telling the truth.
Then I was asked why I called my girlfriend, who I usually staying with and told her I would be staying at my folks house tonight. This is what is called an “unusual statement.” “Who I usually staying with” is ungrammatical and the verb shifts from past (“called” to an incompleted progressive verb—“staying”. The statement analysis site says that people talking about the past should stay in the past tense. When he shifts, he is stumbling over the issue of where he was “staying”—the verb that he uses in “would be staying at my folks house tonight.” Again, the “tonight” shifts the sentence into the present, instead of “that night”.
I don’t remember the reason, but I do remember calling her from a payphone. He has just said he “usually” stayed with the girlfriend and “staying at my folks house tonight” suggests that he was not recounting what his girlfriend said to the GJ but rather telling the reporter/reader of the letter what he originally told police. So he is lying when he says he doesn’t remember the reason.
Then there were questions about my work in the area. The investigators knew that I had helped in the area, but there was no record of me being in the area. Cox being straightforward.
05-07-2009, 02:45 AM #4
Part 2, 1997 letter, continued.
Then Sgt. Routh told me how he had taken over this case. He told me he didn’t think I was involved in this case, then in his next words he wanted to bring closure to this case by me telling him where the bodies were.
I told him that I wanted closure too. I’m tired of the harassment I have received because of my association with this case. (being placed in Ad-Seg). Note Cox doesn’t question that there are “bodies” or deny that he knows where they are.
Then I told Sgt. Routh if I told could tell him where the bodies were then he would come after me with an indictment and seek the death penality. Some people have argued that the crossed out “told” was deliberately placed, but that would require Cox to be extraordinarily self-aware about his writing. Now, “told” there would be very close to a confession. “Could tell” is a conditional that could mean either that he “was able to tell because he knew” or “was able to tell without penalty.” The mention of the death penalty in the same sentence suggests to me the latter. Writers often connect points grammatically or spacially when they are connected in their minds.
His response was “just get word to me without letting me know it is you.” I asked him how could I do that from inside here. He said “you smart, you can figure a way.” I told him that he wasn’t very informed about information coming in or going out. There was no way for me to contact him without incriminating myself. Again, a truthful statement. He seemed to except that. I could tell you, but I don’t think you would be able to keep me as a source without revealing who I am and where you got the information. Am I right? “I could tell you"?—what? Where’s the object? Where the bodies are? "Am I right?""- that if I tell you what I know you would have to reveal where you got the information?
So it finally lead to them wanting me to take a polygraph test. Supposedly to clear me from the case. (I now wonder if they offered Steve the same thing). Note “Steve,” one of the GJ suspects, is referred to by first name. Why just him, and not the other two?
So I asked to see the questions first. They looked at Applegate and he said he would go over the questions with me alone before I took the test. So I agreed to listen to the questions. There were three sets of ten questions and he wanted to give me three separate tests. Then he showed me the questions. Some of them were not appropriate and I objected to them. So I refused to take the test. …Unique word, “appropriate” in his view.
…There were a lot of other things discussed, but I won’t put them in writing. Why not? Why “won’t”? And what other things?
I would have to agree with Steve’s comment “that the investigators blew their opportunity to solve this case a long time ago.” Think about this; we often argue about the investigators’ competence, but we don’t assume there was a specific “opportunity” to solve the case. He says they had an opportunity and blew it. Now how would he know that?
Last edited by pittsburghgirl; 05-07-2009 at 02:17 PM.
05-07-2009, 02:48 AM #5
Part 3, 2002 letter
Excerpt from letter to News-Leader, 5/1/2002
I was a locator. My area of operation was the Springfield area. I have done locates all over Springfield. But to answer your specific question, I have done work in the area of the house where the abduction occurred. Note the words “the abduction.” In other places, he refers to the “disappearance,” but here the first person “I” and “abduction” and “house” are in the same sentence.
I believe the first time that the police questioned me was approximately two weeks after the disappearance. I was expecting them to eventually come talk to me. That is why I remembered what I had done on that day. See point in previous letter. Why would he expect the police would come talk to him. He may well be telling us something important when he says, “That is why I remember what I had done that day.” In the 1997 letter he claims to not remember, but here, 5 years later, “I remember what I had done that day.” If he remembers, why doesn’t he say, “…why I remember I had been out drinking with X or playing golf or …” He knew the cops would come to talk to him and he remembers what he did that day. WHAT DID HE DO THAT DAY?
I had just gotten home from work when a police cruiser pulled up and two uniformed officers approached me and asked me where I was on the day of the disappearance. I told them and that was the last I heard from the Springfield police until I got convicted in Texas. In this version, the false story about calling the girlfriend and going to church with her, etc. is just “I told them” because he doesn’t have anything else.
My opinion of being a suspect doesn’t really matter because there is nothing I could say to change the authorities opinion. Indeed.This is a clear, straighforward and believable statement.
05-07-2009, 03:04 AM #6
I am not a trained statement analyst. Clearly. But I think these letters are very revealing, especially in the places where Cox is trying to account for what he has said in the past, where he was at the time of the women's disappearance, and how his grildfriend has blown up his "story."
On the statement analysis site, I saw no example like the one in which Cox says, "I have done work in the area of the house where the abduction occurred." "The house where the abduction occurred," not the "house where the women were staying" or "the Levitt house." Other places, he uses "disappearance." But when he talks about the house itself, he says "abduction."
He never mentions "the women" or the "victims" or their names. He does talk about the "bodies." Even if the police interviewers used that term, an innocent person might talk about "where the women are."
He never even accidentally denies involvement, never unconsciously gives away that he is just playing a game. But he unconsciously says over and over that he knows more than he is saying.
And: "There is nothing I could say to change the authorities opinion." How about--I didn't abduct those women. I didn't kill them. I didn't break in that house. I have no idea who might have done it.
Cox either was involved directly or indirectly. Now the question is: with whom?
Note also that the George's Steakhouse sighting says that the missing women were talking to clean-cut men. See Cox's picture. If someone were making up a story about the abduction, why cleancut men and not scruffy, bedraggled druggie types?
I hope I've gotten everyone stirred up! Let's talk suspects! And one last point: Can we get a hold of those KY-3 tapes by Dennis Graves????? Does anyone have copies???? If he's talking, he'll be revealing things. And I dearly want to know what he thinks would interest behavioral scientists.
05-07-2009, 10:43 AM #7Registered User
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Outstanding posts Pittsburghgirl!
I'm not as huge believer in coincidence, so I've always thought Cox's proximity to this crime was too much to ignore. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be any connection between Cox and the three women. If he was involved in it with someone else I still don't see the connection to the women. So that pushes it back into the random crime area unless he knew someone connected to the women and the police never found that out.
Either way, I've always thought his letters were too carefully worded. He seems to be very careful in what he says and how he says it. There's no way to know how long he spent writing those letters or writing and rewriting to get the effect he wanted. While he seems intelligent enough, he would have to be extremely intelligent and self-aware to craft letters in such a way to have so many layers and potential meanings to them. He says things in such a way where it almost seems like he's admitting involvement or direct knowledge but stops just short. And he never once denies involvement.
However, even if he was involved, you would think he'd just deny it. That's the one angle that makes me think he just likes the attention and doesn't know anything.
But my opinion is I think he knows more than he is saying, maybe it's because he knows something but wasn't involved or was somehow involved in only part of it.
I would be really interested if that expert takes a crack at his letters. I'd also be interested in those KY-3 tapes.
05-07-2009, 02:11 PM #8
I sent the materials last night. We can only hope for a response. And if that expert isn't interested, we can look for another.
The randomness isn't as troubling if investigators are correct that more than one person was involved and at least one individual was connected to the women. Cox was living a more or less normal life in Springfield, with a girlfriend, co-workers, parents, etc. He would have known lots of people, if only on a superficial level. He may well have had some kind of relationship that overlapped with the lives of one or more of the women. Even just a girlfriend, mother or friend who got her hair cut at Sherrill's salon or a friend who knew Suzie or Stacy.
05-17-2009, 05:23 PM #9Registered User
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Great insight Pittsburghgirl!
I have a copy of the Dennis Graves interview and am trying to figure out how to upload it to youtube.
It would have to be done in several parts as it is a pretty lengthy interview.Don't confront me with my failures.....I had not forgotten them.
05-28-2009, 02:39 PM #10
Let me say something else, from the point of view of a writing teacher and a person who has studied linguistics. Cox may well have labored long and hard on these letters. He may have drafted and copied and recopied. Whatever. The sort of things that statement analysis looks at are often unconscious things: shifts in verb tense, passive vs. active voice, word choice (abduction vs. disappearance.) Even very good writers often don't notice these things they do and what they show. I have no doubt that Cox loves baiting people when he is interviewed or writes to them, but he can't help but give away more than he wants to, because so much of language use is unconscious. That is, someone knows what they want to say but given enough opportunity they will reveal more than they think they are revealing. I do think the VERBAL language is more indicative, however, and harder to control, which is why I am looking forward to seeing the KY3 tape.
Andeven if it means that it takes Kathee longer to upload this video, the longer the video itself, the better. More opportunities to see what Cox is lying about. 'Cause you know he's lying.
06-11-2009, 01:13 PM #11
"I couldn’t have done that." "I wouldn’t have done that."
In statements such as these, the person wants you to believe it is impossible for him to have done such a thing. Therefore, he wants you to conclude that he did not do it. However, he has not told you that he did not do it. He has not denied committing the act.
"I loved Nicole, I could never do such a thing." - O.J. Simpson
"I had nothing to do with........"
This can be a very convincing denial. After all, if a person had nothing to do with the crime, then how could he be guilty? However, this denial still stops short of saying “I didn’t do it.”
"First everyone understand, nothing to do with Nicole’s murder." - O.J. Simpson
Sometimes a person will "deny" doing something. Again this is different than saying "I didn’t do it." The word "deny" can mean "to refuse to accept." If you have a friend who is an alcoholic and he refuses to admit he is an alcoholic, we say he is in denial. It may be the person refuses to accept the fact he committed the act.
"There may be many similarities between these deaths and the death of my first wife, Debra Spivey. However, I deny killing her and her mother." - Mark Bartonthere is always a part of the person that wants to tell you everything you want to know. There is a part of him that wants to confess and get it off his chest. However, the fear of getting in trouble or getting someone else in trouble may prevent him from telling you certain things. If only 10% of him wants to talk, that may be a tough interview. In these situations, do not become discouraged but focus on that small part of him that wants to talk. Once you start to get a little information from him more information will follow. Soon 20% of him will be willing to talk. Then 30%. Then 40%, etc. But, don't expect 100% of him to talk. Even in a confession a person will not tell you everything that happened.
If you are interested, go to the website. A lot of the best stuff is on the live links on the left side. You might have to dig a bit, but it's worth it. I've learned a lot from the site and intend to buy the book.
06-14-2009, 03:53 AM #12
File regarding Cox's appeal of his Florida death sentence. Includes information like date of birth, etc.
Also information about Cox's California attack and attempted kidnapping:
Cox was indicted in Florida nine years after the commission of the offense. At the time of the
indictment, Cox was serving a nine-year sentence in California for Kidnapping and two separate
counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon. Circumstances of the offenses are as follows;
In August of 1985, a young girl named Kathleen Boice arrived at her house in Crestview
California. As she exited her vehicle, Cox, who was following her, jumped from his car, grabbed
the victim, threw her to the ground, placed a seven-inch knife to her throat and told her, “ Go
with me, don’t scream or I‘ll kill you.” During this scuffle, the knife cut the victim’s hand.
In December of 1985, a young woman, Gidget Wickam, was stationed with the U.S. Army at
Fort Ord, California. Ms. Wickam went to the airport to retrieve luggage and, as she was leaving
the airport, Cox, who asked her for a ride to the base, confronted her. She complied and, en
route, Cox drew a firearm on Ms. Wickham and told her they were not driving to the base but
driving to the mountains.
06-15-2009, 10:58 AM #13Registered User
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I was unaware of this thread until this morning. In reading over Cox's past history it reminded me of one scenario that I picked up a couple of days on Google. I'll try to retrieve it and post excerpts. It comes from a very unlikely source but I thought it interesting nonetheless and appears to fit Cox's MO. I can find no reason to exclude him. The $64,000 question is how he kept his DNA or prints out of the house. This site perhaps offers a clue. It might also answer the long festering problem of the broken glass, in addition to the glass, hair and other forensic evidence may have been swept up as well. If there was anything linking Cox to that house this case would be solved; perhaps no conviction, but we would know he was involved."Never answer an anonymous letter"
"I didn't really say everything I said"
06-15-2009, 10:42 PM #14
MM, I look forward to your new information.
It's interesting that Cox has used both a gun and knife in his assaults, and that he attacked one woman OUT of her car and the other while she was in the car, and driving. It suggests a certain flexibility in his methods,
The second example is a little puzzling in terms of what actually happened. What does "Cox, who asked her for a ride to the base, confronted her" mean? He doesn't pull the gun until after she agrees to give him a ride and they are on their way presumably to the base. I'd sure like to know why the request for a ride was described as "Cox...confronted her."
And how did she get away? Does anyone have the full details on this case?
06-15-2009, 11:53 PM #15Registered User
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- Dec 2006
PG: Let me PM you with this "theory." It is purely a "thinking outside the box" idea I ran across. I prefer not to post this in the open forum. You may think it is pure nonsense but what the heck? At this point what does it matter? It is not exactly "information." So don't get your hopes up.
"Never answer an anonymous letter"
"I didn't really say everything I said"
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