BOSTON - The murder of former US Marine David Cox, in the woods of Medfield, was shocking.
In April 1994, a canoeist paddling the Charles River as it wound through a preservation area, spotted a white high top sneaker sticking out of a pile of pine branches. He took his canoe ashore to investigate.
And when he pulled back a branch, he made a startling discovery.
He found the body of 27 year old David Cox, a retired US Marine, who had been missing from his home in Natick since January. David was shot four times: once in the back of the head, and three times in his side.
Twenty five years later, the mystery of how David Cox got into those woods and who murdered him remains unsolved, but there is a new push to find David’s killer.
Mass State Police Sgt. John Fanning and Trooper Yuriy Bukhenik, themselves retired US Marines, are taking a fresh look at David Cox’s death.
“It’s one of those things: never leave a brother behind. I feel like David has been left behind for 25 years,” Yuriy recently told me.
Fanning and Bukhenik are bringing modern day forensic expertise to the Cox investigation. But they are also bringing their years of military experience into the case.
And there is one fact that leaps out at them: David Cox was wearing his US Marines camouflage jacket over his black hooded US Marines sniper jacket. Both investigators tell me, most former Marines don’t like wearing their military clothes in public. And David Cox was no exception.
“David wore that field jacket and his Marine Corps sniper jacket for a reason that day, “ Sgt. Fanning told me. “David knew who he as going with, he trusted that person.”
A few weeks ago, almost 25 years to the day David Cox was murdered, Fanning and Bukhenik took me to the spot where David Cox was found. On a cold day, it took us about twenty minutes walking up and down winding hiking trails. Along the way, we heard the sound of gun shots; there are two shooting ranges in the area. Finally, after about a three quarter of a mile trek, we found the scene. We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.
This is the area, where investigators believe, David turned his back on his killer, and lost his life.
There is more to this crime scene.
The night before David disappeared, a snow storm hit Southern New England. I asked Boston 25 meteorologist Kevin Lemanowicz to look up any information about the weather conditions for January 5, 1994, the day David was last seen alive.
Kevin produced a chart revealing eight inches of snow fell on January 4th in nearby Franklin. It was the first storm of the season, meaning the ground in Medfield was buried beneath eight inches of new fallen snow when David and his killer entered those woods.
David walked into those woods wearing sneakers, not boots.
Why did David go into the woods? Why was he wearing his Marine Corps issued jacket? Why was he wearing sneakers?
There is something else you need to know about this case.
When David Cox was in the Marines, he was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In 1986, David was involved, with ten other Marines in a “Code Red” hazing of another Marine. The incident resulted in court martials for some of the Marines. David fought his charges and prevailed, he was honorably discharged years later. But this was a traumatic experience for David.
If the Code Red incident sounds familiar, there’s a good reason. This was the case that inspired the 1992 Hollywood Blockbuster, “A Few Good Men.” Today, that film is best remembered by actor Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of a US Marine Colonel who declares at trial “You can’t handle the truth!”
The film is based on a true story, but some key facts were changed. Among them, the fate of the victim.
In the film, the victim of the hazing dies. But in reality, the victim survived and David Cox was among the Marines who saved his life.
David was not happy with the film and he publicly spoke about a possible lawsuit with other Marines.
David lost his life before a lawsuit could ever be filed.
But did any of that have anything to do with his murder?
The two Mass State Police investigators tell me there is no evidence supporting any link between the Code Red incident or the Hollywood film and David’s murder.
David Cox was last seen alive on the morning of January 5, at the apartment he shared with his girlfriend in Natick.
The night before, David’s older brother, Steven, took David out for drinks at Houlihan’s on Route 9 in Framingham, to watch a basketball game.
Steven told me his brother was surprised with the invitation to go out for drinks during a snow storm. And he added that David was not himself. “He was usually very vibrant and confident,” Steven told me in an interview. “He just seemed a bit reserved that night.”
I asked Steven if something was bothering David. And he told me that David seemed to be having problems with his girlfriend.
Steven told me he last saw David at about 10:30 that night when he dropped his brother off at the apartment. Steven said he can’t remember if he said goodbye to David inside the apartment, he just remembers them parting ways.
The last person to see David was his girlfriend. She said goodbye to him at about 8AM as she headed off to work. January 5th was supposed to be a day of new beginnings. David was expecting a phone call that morning from UPS in Somerville about a full time job. The call came at about 11:30, offering David the job, but he never got it. Instead that message was left on the machine, unheard until later in the day when David’s girlfriend played it back.
So, what happened to David?
David’s vehicle was parked outside the apartment suggesting that someone stopped by and gave David a ride to Medfield and the woods where he was killed.
David’s brother, Steven, thinks the murder had something to do with the Code Red.
“It has military written all over it. It’s too highly planed,” Steven told me. “My feeling is, it was retribution.”
But, retribution for what?
“What happened in the Corps. What happened in Gitmo,” Cox said.
But the Mass State Police say that’s not likely.
“The Hollywood aspect was investigated, “ Trooper Bukhenik told me. “ The military connection was investigated and vetted out.”
David Cox’s sister, Christine Cox, has spent the last 25 years thinking about her brother’s murder and pushing for justice.
She agrees David’s murder was carefully planned and orchestrated.
But she believes David’s murder was staged. “To suggest this was military, I think, was trying to throw us off track,” Christine Cox said.
Christine Cox and the Massachusetts State Police believe David Cox’s killer was someone close to him, someone he trusted. They believe if David was the victim of a hit, the murder would have taken place at the Natick apartment. Instead, David was driven several miles to Medfield, and then walked three quarters of a mile into the woods where he was shot to death, and then he was covered in pine branches.
If David was taken out of his apartment at gunpoint, wouldn’t this US Marine, at some point, use his training and try to save his life?
The killer may have convinced David to wear his rarely worn military jacket that morning.
And the fact that David was wearing sneakers after a snow storm, not snow boots, indicates, David was not expecting anyone to stop by that morning, and he didn’t expect to be walking in the snow.
Only a trusted person could convince David to leave Natick for a walk in the woods, both Christine Cox and Mass State Investigators believe.
There is still much more to this case.
Steven Cox told me his brother's death is still difficult to accept. "We were pretty close. Outside of losing a brother, I lost one of my best friends, " Steven said.
Christine Cox told me she doesn’t matter where the facts lead, after 25 years, she wants justice.
“David’s life mattered. He was erased. This person erased his life, his future, “ Christine said.
“I want the killer identified. Not to us, to the world. I want everybody to know who did it. I want him to pay for it.”
If you have any information about the Murder of David Cox, call the Mass State Police assigned to the Norfolk County DA’s office at 617-593-8840.
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