DNA evidence leads to arrest in 25-year-old child murder case

A man already locked up for sex crimes against children stands charged with the abduction, rape and murder of a 9-year-old Missouri girl that had stymied investigators for 25 years.

Police arrested former Air Force service member Earl Cox, 61, on Wednesday and charged him with murder in the first degree, kidnapping in the first degree, and sodomy in the case of Angie Housman, who disappeared while walking home from her school bus stop in 1993, according to NBC News.

A hunter found her nine days later – nude, tied to a tree, her body partially covered in snow, and with wounds of torture and attempts to escape her bindings. The fourth grader had been gagged with a piece of her underwear, the same piece that would later yield the DNA evidence, and her head was swathed in duct tape except for her nose, police said.

Angie’s cause of death was hypothermia, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, though before that “she had been starved, handcuffed and sexually assaulted,” the newspaper said. She had been alive until just a few hours before being found.

The case has haunted investigators, and thanks to technological advances and dogged forensic scientists, police were finally able to link the DNA profile extracted from a pea-sized scrap of Angie’s panties with Cox.

“Only one in 58.1 trillion unrelated individuals, selected at random, could be expected to have that same profile,” police said in court papers quoted by the Post-Dispatch.

St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar announced the charges at a press conference Wednesday at the St. Charles County Police Department. He was flanked by a dozen or more experts, investigators and scientists who have been involved over the years, the newspaper recounted.

Cox was already locked up in North Carolina since being convicted in 2003 for being part of an international online kiddie-porn ring, and he had been subject to numerous other allegations and charges of child porn involving children he was babysitting.

Police suspect that Cox did not act alone

Though he had finished serving his sentences by 2011, federal authorities had held onto him, deeming the pedophile as a “sexually dangerous person,” according to court papers quoted by KMOV.

The Houseman case still may not be over. Police suspect that Cox did not act alone and implied that more arrests were possible.

“We have reason to believe that Earl W. Cox was not the only suspect involved in this case,” Lohmar said at the press conference.

Still unknown, for instance, is where Cox kept Angie during her nine days in captivity, and whether he had help concealing her.

In addition, Cox could be implicated in at least one other case, Lohmar said. He was accused of molesting two 7-year-old girls in 1989, but the charges were dropped, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The prosecutor’s office in St. Louis County is considering new charges against Cox for that case, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell told the Post-Dispatch.

With Angie’s case, there is some closure, though her mother did not live to see it. Cancer took the life of Diane Bone two years ago, when she was 52, the Post-Dispatch said.

Just as evolving technology enabled this case to be cracked, it could bode well for future developments in other crimes.

“The fact that it took this long for us to be able to use the current technology and do the DNA testing which gave us the result ... that was a blessing in disguise,” Lohmar said, according to NBC News. “Had we tested this evidence any sooner than we did, there’s a chance that nothing would have come about because the technology just wasn’t advanced enough.”

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