that's life (Australia)

Solved: 31 years to find our girl’s killer

One family faced an agonising 31-year wait for the truth


Fawn Cox was a typical 16-year-old with her whole life ahead of her. The high school student had just got her learner’s permit and was excited to get behind the wheel for the rst time.

A Christian, she went to church with her family and had a part-time job at an amusement park for some extra pocket money.

After nishing a long shift on July 26, 1989, Fawn was exhausted.

Her mum, Beverly, picked her up at 11pm, and as soon as she was home, Fawn went straight to bed and set her alarm, knowing she had work again the next day.

In the middle of the night, Fawn’s little sister Felisa was woken by the family’s dog barking, but she drifted back to sleep.

When the clock hit 9.30am, Fawn’s alarm clock blared through the house.

But instead of hearing her get up and turn it off, Beverly and Felisa heard the alarm continue to sound.

Puzzled, they went to check on her.

The teenager was in bed, but when they tried to rouse her, she was unresponsi­ve.

Beverly and Felisa began shaking her over and over.

To their horror, they realised Fawn was dead.

But the sweet schoolgirl hadn’t died from natural causes. Horrifying­ly, an autopsy revealed Fawn had been raped and strangled.

Fawn’s father, John, told the media that the family, which included a third daughter, Amber, was being held together by their belief they’d meet Fawn again in the next life. Police theorised that, at some point during the night, someone had crawled in through an open upstairs window, possibly by climbing on top of a small truck, before attacking Fawn.

And they believed Fawn, and perhaps the house, was known to her killer.

‘To pick that home and that window to come in undetected and leave undetected makes sense, since the suspect knew Fawn,’ Sergeant Ben Caldwell said.

Apart from the barking dog, the Cox family hadn’t heard a thing – the air conditione­r was loud and had been running all night.

At rst, it looked like the crime was going to be solved fairly quickly.

Two months after the murder, police arrested three teenagers. One was charged with rst degree murder, rape and sodomy.

He spent eight months in prison. But the results of testing from DNA at the

Police believed she was known

to her killer

scene revealed he was entirely innocent.

It also ruled out the other two teens, and the charges against them were dropped.

Police continued their investigat­ion, but eventually the case went cold.

For Fawn’s heartbroke­n family, the ght for justice went on, and they never gave up hope of nding their daughter’s killer.

Holding fundraiser­s, they paid for billboards bearing Fawn’s image to be put up all over town.

They spoke to the press and begged the police to follow up every time they heard about advances in DNA testing.

At one stage, police ran the DNA from the crime scene through a database containing the DNA of every criminal in the country, but failed to nd a match.

Years turned into decades. Suspicion grew that the killer had died, because it appeared he hadn’t committed any other offences.

‘People don’t start killing and then quit and stay out of trouble, as if they fell off the face of the earth,’ Sergeant Caldwell told The Star newspaper in 2017.

Over the years, the family’s requests for further, more advanced DNA tests were refused on the grounds of cost.

In 2019, the Cox family held another fundraiser.

This time, they gathered enough money to offer a $10,000 reward for anyone with informatio­n about Fawn’s murder.

Again, billboards went up all over town.

Do you know who killed me? they asked, alongside a photo of Fawn.

That same year, Fawn’s sister Amber, now 45, did an interview with Fox4 TV channel, saying she was utterly traumatise­d by her sister’s murder and had become ‘obsessed’ with the case in the 30 years since.

‘I ended up in hospital because I got so overwhelme­d,’ she said.

‘I looked up to her so much. I wanted to be just like her. She was my protector.’

Then, in June last year

– 31 years on from the murder – the FBI nally agreed to fund advanced DNA testing in the case.

And this time, it cracked it.

A match came in, and as police had long suspected, he was known to Fawn. In fact, he was a relative. Donald Cox Jr, who was 21 at the time of the murder, was Fawn’s cousin.

Cox had died from a drug overdose in 2006 – with his DNA being collected because his death had been investigat­ed due to its nature.

Despite the heartache of knowing that a member of the

Cox family was responsibl­e for

Fawn’s killing, Felisa said the news had also brought them some relief.

‘The answers aren’t always what we are asking for, but there’s closure,’ she said.

Amber, meanwhile, said she was just pleased the family now knew the truth about what had happened to their hardworkin­g and much-loved sister.

‘I can’t be nothing but happy,’ she said.

‘This is what I’ve been praying for for my family.’ ●

‘I looked up to her so much. I wanted to be just like her’

 ??  ?? The family in happier times
The Cox girls as children
Felisa and her father, John
Fawn’s gravesite
The family in happier times The Cox girls as children Felisa and her father, John Fawn’s gravesite
 ??  ?? The crime scene
Fawn had her whole life ahead of her
Donald Cox Jr
The crime scene Fawn had her whole life ahead of her Donald Cox Jr

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