ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. -- DNA evidence led to the Wednesday arrest of a convicted child predator 25 years after the murder of 9-year-old Missouri girl Angie Housman.
On Wednesday, the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's Office charged 61-year-old Earl Webster Cox for the 1993 abduction, rape and murder.
Cox allegedly kidnapped Housman on November 18, 1993, shortly after she got off her school bus. She was about half a block away from her home when she was taken. Last fall, investigators discovered DNA on a piece of evidence and sent it to a lab for analysis. The DNA matched Cox, a convicted child predator who was already in prison.
Housman's malnourished and dehydrated body was discovered nine days after her disappearance; she was tied to a tree, bound with handcuffs and duct tape. Investigators determined that she had been sexually assaulted.
An autopsy determined Housman died of exposure. Temperatures were below freezing hours before her body was found.
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said a torn piece of Housman's underwear was used as a gag and that she suffered deep cuts to her wrists and right thigh.
The case consumed the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, whose investigators spent hours sifting through evidence and following every lead in a seemingly vain attempt to track down the killer. When the Major Case Squad moved on, the investigation was turned over to authorities in St. Ann and St. Charles County.
In February 2019, forensic lab technicians confirmed tests they'd run on pieces of Housman's underwear contained DNA belonging to two individuals: Angie Housman and Earl Cox.
Lohmar said the chances of finding someone else matching Cox's DNA profile would be one in 58.1 trillion. There are approximately 7.5 billion people on Earth.
Cox was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and sodomy, Lohmar said.
Cox has prior convictions for child sex abuse and for running an international child porn internet ring. He was born and raised in St. Louis and lived just a few streets away from where Housman was abducted.
Cox enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1975. In 1982, he was dishonorably discharged due to multiple sex offenses involving four juveniles while stationed in Germany. He was court-martialed and sentenced to eight years in Leavenworth Penitentiary. Cox was released from prison in 1985 and placed on parole.
He transferred his parole to Missouri and moved in with family in Breckenridge Hills, roughly a quarter-mile from where Housman was abducted.
In October 1989, Cox was investigated and later charged in Overland for the sexual abuse of two girls. The incidents were said to have taken place at Mort Jacobs Park, which is located immediately south of Buder Elementary School where Housman attended.
Because of the charges in the Overland case, Cox's parole was revoked and he was sent back to Leavenworth. He was released again in December 1992 and moved to the St. Ann area.
In early 2019, during the Housman investigation, authorities uncovered new evidence possibly tying Cox to additional sex crimes against one of the juvenile victims in the Overland case. Charges are pending in St. Louis County for that incident.
Cox is currently in custody at a federal prison in North Carolina under the Adam Walsh Act, which means the government has proven in court that he would commit violent sexual attacks on children again if released.
During Wednesday's news conference, Lohmar expressed doubt that Cox acted alone.
"We have reason to believe that Earl W. Cox was not the only suspect involved in this case," he said. "...We do believe that it's very possible another person was involved."
Lohmar said no one can be eliminated as a suspect. The prosecuting attorney expressed confidence that investigators will get several new leads that will eventually point to a connection between Cox and an additional suspect.