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Forgiveness offered before Cox sentenced

By Walter Geiger A life sentence and healthy doses of forgiveness were distributed Jan. 26 in a Monroe County courtroom after a jury deliberated less than two hours before finding Joshua James Cox, 25, guilty of murdering Donald Terrell Clark. After a charge from Judge Tommy Wilson, the jury got the case at 1:40 p.m. They were back with two questions at 2:45 p.m then returned with verdicts at 3:35 p.m. Cox was found not guilty of malice murder but was convicted of felony murder and one count of possession of a firearm during commission of a felony. Prior to sentencing, emotional family members of both Cox and his victim spoke. Clark’s wife, Sabrina, thanked the jury as did his parents, Gail and Charles Bailey, both of whom also addressed Cox directly. ’We all have bad times in our lives. Terrell was not a perfect child but he was my child. It took me a long time to come to grips with this. But, from the deepest part of my heart, I forgive you Josh. I love you. You best find God again in your life. You are going to need him,’ Charles Bailey said. His wife echoed those words. ’Terrell was a loving son. Our family, we are all loving people. I forgive you,’ Gail Bailey added. Cox’s parents, Kenneth and Deborah Cox, also spoke out, blaming their son’s problems and actions squarely on drug abuse and warned others to keep away from them.’I am so sorry for the Clark family’s loss. Drugs are to blame. Without drugs, this would have never happened. Josh’s seven-year-old son is going to be without his daddy for a very long time because of drugs,’ Kenneth Cox said. Telling the Clark family she ‘cannot even imagine their loss’, Deborah Cox said, ‘Drugs destroy families. They destroy everyone. Josh is a good guy. Drugs destroyed him.’ After hearing from the families, Judge Wilson sentenced Cox to life in prison on the murder charge and five years probation on the firearms count. He will serve at least 30 years before he is eligible for parole. The judge ordered Cox to turn around and face his sobbing parents. ‘I’ll be dead before you get out of prison. You turn around and look at your mama and daddy. That’s the worst punishment I can give you. They just got sentenced to life in prison, too,’ the judge admonished. The trial was moved to Monroe County due to publicity by The Herald Gazette. A jury was selected Monday. Testimony filled the next two days. Closing arguments preceded the sentencing on the final day. The defense, led by public defenders Doug Smith and Rusty Knox, faced an uphill battle in that Cox had admitted to investigators he shot Clark after night of taking acid with a friend, Misty Martin, and then going to Clark’s Chappell Mill Rd. home to smoke marijuana. Clark, who was 40 when he died, had sold the acid to Cox for $100, according to testimony. The acid, by all accounts, was not the LSD of the 1960s but a new synthetic hallucinogenic compound NBOMe, known on the street as N-Bomb. The defense argued that when Cox, already tripping on at least 10 hits of acid, arrived at Clark’s home to smoke marijuana and calm down, Clark laced the blunt they shared with more of the hallucinogen, causing both of them to behave erratically. Cox eventually shot Clark in the head and chest and left him to die in his driveway. Assistant district attorney Mark Daniel painted a completely different picture, arguing Clark had Cox’s keys and was trying to stop him from driving when his friend and drug customer turned on him and killed him with a .40 caliber Glock. Key witnesses in the order of their testimony included (note: the victim is referred to as both Donald and Terrell at various times during testimony): Lt. Chris Webster, LCSO: Webster was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the Clark home and said he knew immediately that Clark was dead. He testified he was surprised when three people emerged from the house but no one was rendering aid to Clark. He briefly searched the home for any suspects, finding none but noting bits of marijuana in and around a toilet. David Bell: Bell is the uncle of Sabrina Clark. He said he went to the Clark home early on the day of the murder to change out a starter on Donald’s truck but never saw him. He said Sabrina later called him and told him to go back to the home because Donald should be there to pay him. He arrived and found Donald lying in the drive. ‘I thought he was goofing around. I pulled up by him and tapped his foot with my foot. I said ‘get up man’. I did not know he was passed away. I called Sabrina at the Waffle House in Barnesville where she works and said something is wrong with your husband. He is lying in the driveway. I think he is dead,’ Bell testified. He said the ambulance got lost and he had to call back to 911 to give directions. He said he never saw a drop of blood and did not flush anything down the toilet of the home. He said Sabrina and a Waffle House co-worker, Crystal Banks, arrived before the ambulance. He said Sabrina lifted Clark’s shirt and said, ‘He’s been shot’. ’I saw his eyes was solid white,’ Bell concluded. Butts Co. jailers: Cox was in the Butts County jail when charged in the case due to an altercation with his parents at their Patillo Road home in Butts County which is not far from the shooting scene. Butts detention officers Waldemere Witcha and Selena Henson both testified Cox told them he thought he had killed someone. Erica Callahan, Spalding 911 operator: She answered the original call Cox made to 911 from the shooting scene at 9:03 a.m. in which he identified himself and said, ‘I just shot a man in the head and chest. I’m gonna put my Glock down and walk to the road. Ya’ll need to come get me. I’m gonna lay down in the road.’ Callahan asked Cox where he was and he replied ‘You know’. Upon reaching the road, Cox smashed this phone. Callahan pinged the phone to try to pinpoint a location. Dakota Lupton: Lupton lives across the road from the Clark residence and was cleaning horse stalls about 9 a.m. when she heard two gunshots about two seconds apart. She testified it is not unusual to hear gunshots in the area. She looked toward the road and saw a man she later learned was Cox. ’He was young. It appeared he was on a cellphone. He threw it down in the road. He started yelling ‘˜I can climb any mountain’. He was on his knees. He looked at me, got up, stopped yelling and ran down the driveway. I heard a truck crank,’ Lupton said. She said a lifted truck soon left the house at a high rate of speed but noted there was a lot of traffic in and out of the home and she went about her day. Todd Crosby, GBI: Special agent Crosby, a crime scene specialist, worked the murder. He has since been promoted to second in command of the GBI office in Perry. He found the busted cell phone and its case, marked two shell cartridges and a Mountain Dew bottle and took measurements and multiple photos. No search warrant had been issued for the house when he arrived just after 3:30 p.m. so he worked outside. The two casings were 8.5 feet apart not far from Clark’s body. Crosby also testified at length about the data extraction from Clark’s cellphone which indicated he texted Cox hints on how to come down off the acid of which Cox texted, ‘I ate it all’. There was also a texted invitation to Cox that read, ‘Do you want to listen to some music and smoke?’ Sabrina Clark: Sabrina said she met Clark in 2006 and they had been married for three years when he was killed. She admitted she smoked marijuana with Terrell who smoked almost everyday. She also said she knew he sold marijuana but she ‘didn’t get into that’. She said her uncle, James Bell, called her at Waffle House about 1 p.m. to say Terrell was on the ground. She arrived with Banks, lifted Clark’s shirt and then went into the house to get his phone. ’I wanted to see who he called last,’ she testified. She denied flushing anything down the toilet before Lt. Webster arrived. Sabrina identified marijuana and drug paraphernalia found in the home and claimed to have told officers where to find it. Laura Clark, Lamar County Sheriff’s Office: Clark corroborated the video of a long interview done with Cox at the Butts County jail with former investigator Todd Pippin in which he said he had been to drug rehab three times. He described how he had gotten into drugs, then cleaned up. Cox said he is impulsive and admitted that he wanted to try acid. ‘˜I wanted it to be a one time thing. I’m not sure why I dived into it,’ he said. He said he got the acid from Clark whom he called Hippie. ‘His nickname was Hippie for a reason,’ Cox told the investigators. He described a peaceful acid trip with a friend at her home where he took five hits of acid beginning about 9 p.m. the night before the killing. He said he went to Clark’s home on his way to his parents’ home to smoke marijuana and started feeling weird again after smoking a blunt. Cox said he wanted to leave and went to his truck but Clark came up behind him and touched his neck. ’He was talking in another language. He was growling. My Glock was right by the door. He came at me. I just shot him, man. His hands were in the air and he was growling. He came at me. I went to the truck to leave. I shot him. I called the police then I started wigging out again,’ Cox said on the tape. Ryan Casterline, GBI: Casterline, who was being forced out at the GBI the day he testified due to mistakes in his work, examined the murder weapon in the Clark case, a Glock Model 27. He said it took 5.75 lbs. of pressure to pull the trigger. He also testified spent Glock casings eject over the shooter’s right shoulder. Casterline also discussed gunpowder residue on Clark’s t-shirt. Troy Detmering, GBI: Detmering, a forensic toxicologist, said Cox’s blood tested positive for only marijuana after the shooting. He admitted the GBI did not have a test for N-Bomb at the time. Kenneth Cox: Cox testified at length about the altercation he and his wife had with their son on the day of the killing. He said Josh got out of his truck and a handgun magazine fell out which the father retrieved. He also later got the Glock from his son’s truck. He described Josh as alternately serene and hostile, having hugged him and lifted his mother over a gate while telling both of them, ‘I love you’. When he asked his son what he had taken, Josh answered ‘˜everything’. Once in the home, Josh threw a steak knife at his father, smashed a TV remote and attacked both parents with a watering can. Kenneth Cox eventually had to taser his son near their pool and finally got him handcuffed. Butts County deputies arrived and Josh continued to resist though cuffed. He described Josh as being ‘out of control’. Kenneth and Deborah Cox are both retired from the Atlanta Police Department. Davina Owens, GBI: Owens, another forensic toxicologist, testified Clark’s blood tested positive for only marijuana though the levels were higher than normal. Dr. Stacey Desamours, GBI: Dr. Desamours, an assistant medical examiner at the crime lab, autopsied Clark’s body. She said he was hit by two rounds: one in the chest and a second that grazed a shoulder and then hit him in the head but did not enter the brain. She said neither wound would have caused immediate death, though the chest wound broke ribs and penetrated both the diaphragm and liver. ’He would not have lived for more than a few minutes,’ Desamours said. Misty Martin: Martin said Cox contacted her and asked if she wanted to do acid. She agreed and got a baby sitter. She said the acid came on paper which they put on their tongues. She said they did one hit each every hour for five or six hours but Josh had done five hits before he got to her home. She described the experience as peaceful. They enjoyed light trails, a glow ball and looking at the stars. She said Josh was not angry when he left at 8 a.m. on the fateful day. ’He was joking around. Josh is real funny. He’s a comedian, you know,’ Martin said. Dr. Gaylord Lopez: Dr. Lopez is a toxicologist and director of the Georgia Poison Control Center. He talked at length about N-Bomb, differentiating it from LSD. He said the drug is made by ‘˜dorm room chemists’ who have no quality control measures. They change single molecules of their concoctions to keep them legal. He said he suspected N-Bomb immediately upon reviewing the facts of the case and security video of the altercation Josh had with his parents in their home. He described LSD trippers as peaceful and content as compared to those on N-Bomb who are irritable, erratic and sometimes violent. He said smoking marijuana with Clark should have calmed Cox and suspect- ed the blunt they shared had been laced with more N-Bomb. Christopher Robinson: Robinson, formerly with the GBI and Atlanta P.D., is now a forensics consultant. Called by the defense, his opinion on the facts yielded by the photos of the crime scene differed from those of Crosby whom he hailed as a ‘great agent’ but having less firearms expertise than he. At dispute was gunpowder on Clark’s shirt and the distance the muzzle was from Clark when the trigger was pulled. Crosby said four to five feet. Robinson said no more than three. Also at issue was the direction of ejection of spent Glock cartridges. Doug Smith, defense attorney: In his closing argument, Smith keyed in on the marijuana Clark offered Josh just before the shooting, arguing it was laced with N-Bomb or something else that made them both crazy. He also alleged Sabrina Clark and James Bell were not truthful in their accounts, noting neither called 911 first. He alleged they were hiding something and flushed marijuana down the toilet after finding Clark dead. ‘Josh got marijuana laced with N-Bomb. This was self defense. He was not required to retreat. He thought he was going to get bitten,’ Smith said, citing an involuntary intoxication defense. He quoted his client in the original arrest interview in which Josh said, ‘He came after me. I had no choice. There was nothing I could do.’ Smith asked the jury to find his client not guilty on all counts. ’Joshua Cox protected himself. The science shows it. He defended himself. It is indisputable,’ Smith concluded. Mark Daniel, prosecutor: In closing, Daniel argued Cox admitted he wanted to try acid and never mentioned LSD. ’Voluntary intoxication is not a defense,’ he said. He noted there were no injuries to Clark’s hands that would indicate a fight and opined that Clark was trying to prevent Cox from driving as he had the night before several times while exchanging texts with Cox while he and Martin were tripping. He noted Cox had admitted Clark had his keys and opined Cox shot him when he wouldn’t return them. ’Josh Cox intended to drive there. He intended to have that Glock. He intended to grab it. He intended to pull the trigger two times. He knew what he did. He wanted to make sure the cops did not see a gun on him,’ Daniel argued. He argued Clark saw the gun and turned away from it and that action resulted in the grazing wound to the shoulder that then hit him in the head. ’That shot would have stopped anybody but was not necessarily fatal. Was that second shot necessary? Josh never tried to go to Terrell’s aid. Instead, he shot him again,’ Daniel said. He argued the defense tried to put Clark on trial. ‘Terrell was a good, laid back person. He had kids. Thank God, they were not there. Your job is to look at the evidence. The truth is there,’ Daniel told the jury.

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