Fayetteville man guilty of murdering daughter, son in law

FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WOAY) – It took a Fayette County jury less than an hour to reach its conclusion about Carl Cox, a Fayetteville man facing first-degree murder charges for the deaths of Rhonda Cox, his daughter, and James Neal, his son-in-law. The couple had three children.

The verdict? Guilty on both counts.

The trial’s resolution was over two years in coming. Cox was originally arrested and charged in January of 2022.

According to Fayette County prosecuting attorney Anthony Ciliberti, the trial was delayed several times. Now that it is finally over, he is grateful for the work of everyone involved in the case.

“A lot of work went into this trial both on the part of law enforcement and in our office. The families of the victims were there today and they were able to watch the verdict come in,” he said. “Needless to say, we’re very pleased.”

The trial is the culmination of an investigation that started in the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2022, when police responded to a 911 call at around 4:45 a.m.

When officers arrived, Cox and another man came outside with their hands raised. Inside, police found Rhonda Cox and James Neal lying in bed, dead from gunshot wounds.

Based on evidence presented at trial, the killings happened at around 4:30 a.m.

After a forensic investigation and interviews, they arrested and charged Carl Cox.

During the trial, the two sides presented two very different interpretations of the events surrounding the murder.

The weapon used was a seven-shot revolver chambered in .357 magnum. The gun belonged to Carl, but during his testimony, Carl said that Neal took the gun from the bathroom where he left it and shot Rhonda.

He then testified that he wrestled the gun away and used it on Neal in self-defense.

According to the defense, the blood on Carl’s clothes was from him checking for Rhonda’s vital signs. They also portrayed Rhonda as Carl’s caregiver and manager and said there was no motive for him to kill her.

The prosecution painted a different picture, saying that Carl may have feared that Rhonda and Neal would reveal an incestuous relationship with Rhonda that prosecutors say began years prior. Rather than letting the secret get out, Ciliberti argued that Cox murdered the couple.

Further, the state used surveillance video from inside the home to rebut Cox’s claim that he left the gun in the bathroom. Ciliberti said the video from the morning the murder happened never showed Cox leaving the bathroom without the gun.

Ciliberti said that Cox’s version of events did not align with the timeline shown by the video.

“The defendant gave two statements to law enforcement about what happened the evening the victims were killed in the home. Surveillance videos showed that what he told law enforcement absolutely could not have happened. We suspect he either didn’t believe the system was working or he didn’t believe that we would be able to access the videos on the system,” Ciliberti said.

At one point during the trial, Carl suggested that the murder trial was an example of Fayette County unfairly targeting him. Ciliberti pushed back on that accusation.

“Fayette County is not out to get him. Fayette County is out to hold murderers accountable,” Ciliberti told the jury as part of his closing arguments.

“Murder is the most serious crime that can be charged in West Virginia. We take crimes of violence seriously,” Ciliberti said in a post-trial interview. “We press hard on crimes of violence here in Fayette County.”

The maximum penalty that Cox could face is life in prison. However, the jury returned a guilty verdict with mercy, opening the possibility for eventual parole. To be eligible, he must first serve at least 15 years in prison.

Nor did Cox get the chance to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. Ciliberti’s office never gave him the option.

“We didn’t offer the defendant a plea in this particular case. Our position was that we were going to go to trial and try to get convictions for first-degree murder. And that’s what the jury did,” he said.

Cox will be sentenced on April 22 at 10 a.m.


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