THAXTON, Miss. — A condemned Mississippi inmate confessed to killing his sister-in-law just before he was executed for his wife’s 2010 murder last month. On Sunday, authorities found remains believed to belong to the missing woman.
The presumed body of Felicia Warren Cox was found Sunday on land that her family once owned in Pontotoc County, according to The Associated Press. The state crime lab will conduct an autopsy and identification of Cox, who vanished in 2007 at the age of 40.
Her brother-in-law, David Neal Cox, was the last person to see her alive. Days before his Nov. 17 execution at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, Cox, 50, told his lawyers where Felicia Cox’s remains could be found.
“Our office is greatly indebted to many as we reflect on the discovery of what appears to be the remains of Felicia Cox today in Pontotoc County,” First Circuit District Attorney John Weddle said in a statement. “The final identity will need to be confirmed by DNA testing which will hopefully be performed soon.
“We are thankful the family can now begin the process of giving Felicia Cox a burial.”
Weddle said Monday that shortly before David Cox’s execution, his attorneys with the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel informed prosecutors that a credible source would come forward with new information after the death sentence was carried out.
The day after David Cox died by lethal injection, an attorney met with prosecutors and said that pursuant to David Cox’s waiver of attorney-client privilege, he would provide the location of Felicia Cox’s body.
The next day, the defense turned over a letter from Cox, along with a hand-drawn map marking the location of the remains. Authorities used satellite imagery to compare the location in 2007 and today.
They also began coordinating with Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Department officials on the logistics of searching the site, located at 1465 Cane Creek Road South in Thaxton.
“It was decided that ground-penetrating radar would be used by (Mississippi State University) personnel to assist in the recovery,” Weddle said. “The assistance of cadaver dogs from Golden Triangle K9 out of Columbus, Mississippi, was also added to the efforts.”
The search efforts began just before 9 a.m. on Sunday, the prosecutor said. The radar showed two anomalies on the property, one of which was determined to be a clump of tree roots.
The other was a grave. Its location — in a spot the property’s current owner was using for his garden — matched what David Cox had drawn on the map before his death.
Just over four hours after the search began, the remains believed to belong to Felicia Cox were found, Weddle said.
Her shallow grave was located less than 20 feet from where the current owner built a home in 2016, according to property records and the Daily Journal in Tupelo. At the time of Felicia Cox’s disappearance, only a single wide mobile home and an open porch were on the land.
Today, the location of the grave is visible from the road, the newspaper reported. In 2007, however, a thicket of brush and trees obscured the property. The current owner, Bennie Randolph, told the Daily Journal that the land was mostly overgrown when he purchased it.
Felicia Cox’s daughter, Amber Miskelly, and other family members were on the scene as her body was slowly unearthed by anthropology and archeology professors and grad students from MSU.
“We were looking for shovel marks or signs that the ground had been previously disturbed,” MSU professor Jesse Goliath told the Daily Journal. “We would take off about 6 inches at a time and assess the land, trying to find the burial outline.”
As each layer was removed, the cadaver dogs were brought in. After more than two hours of digging, the remains were uncovered.
On Facebook, Miskelly thanked her family and friends for the prayers and support as her mother was finally located. Another relative, Brittany Cossey, also spoke out.
“We finally have her with us again,” Cossey wrote. “We can have a proper burial now.
“We will have some difficult days ahead of us. But with the love of our family (and) friends and all your prayers, we will continue to be strong and get through this difficult time.”
Felicia Cox was married to a brother of David Cox, who on May 14, 2010, took his estranged wife, Kim Kirk Cox, 40, and two of her children hostage at their Sherman home. He fatally shot Kim Cox and sexually assaulted her then-12-year-old daughter multiple times in front of her dying mother, according to The Associated Press.
By the time authorities were able to gain access to the home the following morning, Kim Cox was dead.
The couple had split after Kim Cox’s daughter confided that her stepfather had been sexually abusing her. David Cox blamed Kim Cox for time he subsequently spent in jail.
Kim Cox and Felicia Cox were close friends, and Kim Cox had agreed on July 2, 2007, to drive her sister-in-law to the Oxford jail, where Felicia’s husband was incarcerated. When Kim went to pick her up, Felicia was not home, a 2007 missing persons report stated.
David Cox told authorities Felicia Cox had shown up at their home “upset because she wasn’t sure if Kim would take her.”
Felicia Cox’s copper-colored 1999 Chevrolet Blazer was later found abandoned on Waldo Road in the Randolph community of Pontotoc County. It was locked and the missing woman’s purse, keys and medication were inside.
Cox’s family told police she never went anywhere without her medication.
Kim Cox subsequently reported her missing.
David Cox was immediately suspected in her disappearance, but Weddle told The New York Times last week that without physical evidence or a confession, investigators were unable to do anything about their suspicions.
“Having something to take to a grand jury back then would have been almost impossible,” the prosecutor said.
Miskelly told the Times that she received a letter from David Cox through his attorneys.
“All that he said was that he was sorry for taking my mom away and that her death was senseless, and that he should have never harmed her,” Miskelly said. “I felt relieved, but it upset me all over again.”
Weddle told the newspaper that David Cox did not say how he killed Felicia Cox. Investigators are launching a search for her remains, with help from Mississippi State University archaeologists and anthropologists.
The motive for Felicia Cox’s slaying was unclear.
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