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Cold case: Who killed David Cox, Marine who inspired 'A Few Good Men'?
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Cold case: Who killed David Cox, Marine who inspired 'A Few Good Men'?

Cold case: Who killed David Cox, Marine who inspired 'A Few Good Men'?
Former Marine David Cox was murdered in 1994. (Boston25News.com)

Cold case: Who killed David Cox, Marine who inspired 'A Few Good Men'?

The body of former Marine David Cox, whose story inspired “A Few Good Men,” was found in the Massachusetts woods nearly 25 years ago and two former Marines are now taking a new look into this unsolved murder.

>> Read more trending news

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 former U.S. Marine, who had been missing from his home in Natick since January. Cox had been shot four times: once in the back of the head, and three times in his side.

Unsolved for 25 years

Twenty-five years later, the mystery of how Cox got into those woods and who shot him remains unsolved, but there is a new push to find his killer.

Mass State Police Sgt. John Fanning and Trooper Yuriy Bukhenik, both former Marines, are taking a fresh look at 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 WFXT reporter Bob Ward.

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: Cox was wearing his U.S. Marines camouflage jacket over his black hoodedU.S. Marines sniper jacket. Both investigators said most former Marines don’t like wearing their military clothes in public. And Cox was no exception.

“David wore that field jacket and his Marine Corps sniper jacket for a reason that day, “ Fanning said. “David knew who he was going with he trusted that person.”

A few weeks ago, almost 25 years to the day Cox was slain, Fanning and Bukhenik took WFXT to the spot where his body was found. On a cold day, it took us about 20 minutes walking up and down winding hiking trails. Along the way, we heard the sound of gunshots; there are two shooting ranges in the area. Finally, after about a three-quarter mile trek, we found the scene. We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

This is the area, where investigators believe, Cox turned his back on his killer, and lost his life.

There is more to this crime scene.

The night before David disappeared, a snowstorm hit Southern New England. WFXT’s meteorologist, Kevin Lemanowicz, researched the weather conditions for Jan. 5, 1994, the day Cox was last seen alive.

Lemanowicz produced a chart revealing 8 inches of snow fell on Jan 4 in nearby Franklin. It was the first storm of the season, meaning the ground in Medfield was buried beneath 8 inches of new fallen snow when Cox and his killer entered those woods.

Cox 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.

“A Few Good Men”

When Cox was in the Marines, he was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In 1986, Cox was involved with 10 other Marines in a “Code Red” hazing of another Marine. The incident resulted in courts martial for some of the Marines. Cox fought his charges and prevailed; he was honorably discharged years later. But this was a traumatic experience for him.

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 for actor Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of a U.S. 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 Cox was among the Marines who saved his life.

Cox was not happy with the film and he publicly spoke about a possible lawsuit with other Marines.

Cox lost his life before a lawsuit could ever be filed.

But did any of that have anything to do with his death?

The two Mass State Police investigators said there is no evidence supporting any link between the Code Red incident or the Hollywood film and Cox’s slaying.

Cox was last seen alive on the morning of Jan. 5, at the apartment he shared with his girlfriend in Natick.

The night before, Cox’s older brother, Steven, took him out for drinks at Houlihan’s on Route 9 in Framingham, to watch a basketball game.

Steven said 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 said in an interview. “He just seemed a bit reserved that night.”

I asked Steven if something was bothering David. And he said that David seemed to be having problems with his girlfriend.

Steven said 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 8 a.m. as she headed off to work. Jan. 5 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.

What happened to David?

David’s vehicle was parked outside the apartment suggesting that someone stopped by and gave him a ride to Medfield and the woods where he was killed.

David’s brother, Steven, thinks the killing had something to do with the Code Red.

“It has military written all over it. It’s too highly planed,” Steven said. “My feeling is, it was retribution.”

But retribution for what?

“What happened in the Corps. What happened in Gitmo,” Cox said.

But the Massachusetts State Police say that’s not likely.

“The Hollywood aspect was investigated, “ Trooper Bukhenik said. “The military connection was investigated and vetted out.”

The Cox brothers’ sister, Christine Cox, has spent the last 25 years thinking about her brother’s slaying and pushing for justice.

She agrees David’s slaying was carefully planned and orchestrated.

But she also believes it was staged. “To suggest this was military, I think, was trying to throw us off track,” Christine Cox said.

She 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.

Why was Cox wearing sneakers in a snowstorm?

If David was taken out of his apartment at gunpoint, wouldn’t this U.S. Marine, at some point, have used his training and tried to save his life?

The killer may have convinced Cox to wear his rarely worn military jacket that morning.

And the fact that Cox was wearing sneakers after a snowstorm, 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 Cox to leave Natick for a walk in the woods, both Christine Cox and Massachusetts State Police investigators believe.

There is still much more to this case.

Steven Cox said 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 said 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 killing of David Cox, call the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Norfolk County district attorney’s office at 617-593-8840.

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Two teenage girls remain hospitalized but are expected to be released over the weekend. A third student was treated and released. Update 3:20 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Los Angeles County coroner's officials on Friday identified one of the two teenagers slain Thursday after a student opened fire on classmates at Saugus High School as Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15, according to The Los Angeles Times. The newspaper reported she celebrated her 15th birthday on Oct. 10. A 14-year-old boy killed in the shooting was not immediately identified, according to KCBS-TV. Update 6:37 a.m. EST Nov. 15: The suspect has been identified by two separate law enforcement sources as Nathaniel Berhow, CNN and the Los Angeles Times reported. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has not confirmed his identity due to his age, CNN reported. Neighbors described Berhow as a good student and typical teenager who was affected by the death of his father in 2017, CNN reported. Neighbors said Berhow found his father dead after had a heart attack, KTTV reported. His mother and father had divorced in 2016, CNN reported. There is no motive for the attack, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office.  Members of the community gathered near the campus Thursday night to remember the victims, KNBC reported. The Associated Press reported the gunman shot whoever was near him and that there was no known connection to the victims. Update 3:10 p.m. EST Nov. 14: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Capt. Kent Wegener identified the gunman as a 16-year-old student who opened fire on his classmates on his birthday. Wegener said video from the scene showed the teenager, who was not identified by name, taking a gun out of his backpack in the quad at Saugus High School on Thursday morning. He shot five of his classmates before turning the gun on himself. Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters Thursday that the suspect shot himself in the head. 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Their conditions were not immediately known. Update 11:45 a.m. EST Nov. 14: Deputies asked residents in the area of Saugus High School to lock their doors and shelter in place as they continue to search for a shooter who opened fire Thursday morning at the school. Update 11:30 a.m. EST Nov. 14: Authorities revised down the number of people injured in Thursday morning's shooting from seven to three, according to KNBC-TV. Sheriff's deputies warned the incident was active and ongoing Thursday morning. Original report: Deputies said nearby schools were placed under lockdown as authorities investigated. Officials with the Los Angeles County Fire Department told KNBC that at least seven people were shot. Their conditions were not immediately known. Check back for updates to this developing story.
  • A 9-year-old child prodigy in Belgium is expected to graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. >> Read more trending news  Laurent Simons, of Belgium, started studying electrical engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology when he was 8 and will complete a three-year program in 10 months, The New York Times reported. His final project is an electrical chip that is connected to the brain. “Then, I want to study medicine and do a Ph.D. and make artificial organs,” he told The New York Times. He was raised by his grandparents while his parents worked in the Netherlands. They are all doctors. He now lives with his parents. “His grandparents always taught us he’s very special,” father Alexander Simons told The Times. “We thought they were taking him too seriously.” Laurent, who has an IQ of 145, started school at 4 and was in high school at 6 years old.  'Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,' Sjoerd Hulshof, the director of education at the university, said in a statement, CNN reported. 'Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.' His instructors rave about his academic abilities. “Laurent’s absorption capacity is very high, which means that everything goes much faster and we can cover a lot more material in a short span of time,” Peter Baltus, a professor at the university and the boy’s mentor, told the Times. “It’s been quite special and enjoyable.” In his off-time, Laurent has interests similar to most kids, playing video games, posting on social media and watching Netflix.  Ultimately, he would like to develop artificial hearts. “My goal as a scientist is life extension,” he told AD, an online publication in the Netherlands. “My grandfather and grandmother are heart patients and I want to help them.”
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Her connection to Chernoff and her reason for being at his home were not clear, but the CBS affiliate reported the day after Chernoff was found dead that detectives believed he may have been the victim of an escort who tied him up, robbed him and killed him. Court records show the teen is being held without bail at the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center. >> Read more trending news  Chernoff, who went by the nickname 'Alley Cat,' was found dead around 3 a.m. Nov. 5 in his home in the Rhawnhurst neighborhood of northeast Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was suffering from a massive head injury and multiple slashes to his chest, the newspaper reported. The 59-year-old previously appeared on the NatGeoTV reality show 'Rescue Ink,' which profiled tattooed bikers working against animal abuse. Police were called to Chernoff's home by a concerned neighbor who requested a welfare check, the newspaper said. 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There's a reason police aren't saying much,' Taylor told the network. 'There's a lot more to it.' When a reporter asked if the girl was a victim of some kind, Taylor said he 'wouldn't put it to that extent.' He said Chernoff 'wasn't totally innocent, either,' CNN reported. Coulter described Chernoff as a 'guy who went to work every day, well liked by his neighbors and co-workers.' She said Chernoff, who was a building maintenance supervisor at the Philadelphia International Airport, did not appear to have a criminal record. ‘A fierce and tireless advocate' Animal welfare activists in Philadelphia were stunned by Chernoff's death. 'If you help animals in Philadelphia, you've met Al,' Blake Martin of Philadelphia's Animal Care and Control Team told ABC6. 'He is a wild veteran who loves motorcycles and will talk your ear off about his motorcycles and cats.' Chernoff, who was known for building shelters for feral strays in the city, also founded a one-man rescue group, Alley Cat Animal Rescue. 'His generosity was incredible,' Martin said. 'You don't see a lot of that anymore, especially towards the animal community. 'It's been a tough day.' The Facebook page of 'The Cat Rescuers,' a documentary about cat rescue in New York City, described Chernoff as 'one of many amazing rescuers' filmmakers met during filming. The crew met Chernoff during a workshop on 'trap-neuter-return,' a method of managing the stray and feral cat population that Chernoff was known to use. 'He wasn't one of the main four we were following, but we were so taken by his warmth and affability when we encountered him at a (trap-neuter-return) workshop that we just knew we had to put him in our film,' the post read. A brief clip from the documentary shows Chernoff showing off his many cat tattoos. He tells the camera that he had a cat as a child. 'I just was always into cats,' Chernoff says. 'Cats and Harleys and tattoos. That's what I'm into.' Chernoff's Facebook page is filled with photos of his cats, 11 of them, along with photos of his building projects. Motorcycles and military memorabilia are also heavily featured on his page. Last month, he posted a wedding photo of his parents, along with his Army basic training photo, writing that he had just stumbled upon the pictures. Chernoff was not married and had no immediate family left, according to Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent. 'We tried the best we could to keep him family-oriented because he had no parents, he had no siblings and he had no children,' Chernoff's cousin, Beverly Levin, told the Exponent. 'He was with us for Rosh Hashanah just last month. We kept him as close as we could because he was alone in the world.' Since his death, friends in the animal rescue community and beyond have mourned Chernoff on social media. They have also contributed more than $18,000 to a GoFundMe page set up by Levin's son, David Levin, to pay for Chernoff's funeral and provide for more cats to be rescued. 'Al's kids were his cats,' David Levin wrote on the fundraising page. A private donor, along with Chernoff's veteran benefits, have taken care of the cost of his funeral and memorial service, which is scheduled for Nov. 24 in Southampton. All the funds raised by the GoFundMe campaign will be distributed to multiple animal rescues, David Levin wrote in an update. Chernoff's 11 cats, along with three turtles and two frogs, were rescued from his home following his death. Friend and fellow rescuer Gwen Cooper wrote that she was “shocked and saddened beyond the telling of it” to learn of Chernoff’s death. 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In the Philadelphia area, I know of at least three service veterans who he helped hands-on (with service animals).' Emily Petry, who described Chernoff as the 'best cat daddy ever,' said he was one of the kindest people she'd ever known. 'Nobody who ever knew you would have ever done you any harm,' Petry wrote. Ashley Foresta, a fellow animal rescuer in Philadelphia, told the Daily Mail she could not imagine why the 14-year-old suspect was in Chernoff's house. Foresta speculated that perhaps Chernoff had hired the girl to clean his home, but Branconi told the Mail he had never seen the girl at the duplex before. 'I just can't imagine for one minute that Al was the type of person who would have had an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old girl -- but at the same time I can't think of anyone ever having a reason to kill him,' Foresta said. 'To be honest, maybe part of me doesn't want to know the whole truth,' she said. Chernoff's family and friends weren't the only ones puzzled by his slaying. Coulter said last week that detectives were still piecing together what happened and why. 'Who it is, is identified, but the why and the rationale behind it is what the investigators are now working on,' Coulter told reporters. 'These things take time to get right. 'I know that everybody would like to have everything answered, and so would we, but we want to make sure that we do it in a way that the judicial process plays out fairly and everybody involved gets justice.
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  • The 2019 Leonid meteor shower peaks this weekend. >> Read more trending news  With clear skies, there's a good chance you may be able to see a meteor Sunday night and see the peak in meteor showers early Monday morning. According to the American Meteor Society, spectators can expect up to nine meteors an hour during this year’s peak time, which is expected to be around 5 a.m. Monday. 'Skywatchers may be able to see some meteors on days just before and after the peak, although the moon will continue to obstruct views,' according to Space.com. The meteors can be seen each year in November when Earth's orbit crosses with the comet 55P Tempel-Tuttle. The comet was discovered by German astronomer Ernst Wilhelm Tempel and American astronomer Horace P. Tuttle in 1865. Both astronomers discovered the comet independently. The comet “makes fairly frequent passes through the inner solar system,” according to David Samuhel, senior meteorologist and astronomy blogger at AccuWeather. “This lays out fresh debris in the path of the Earth's orbit every 33 years.” When it does make a close approach to the planet, stargazers get to revel in explosive showers. In 1833, stargazers reported seeing as many as 72,000 shooting stars per hour, according to National Geographic. Later, in 1966, a group of hunters reported seeing 40 to 50 streaks per second over the duration of 15 minutes. Scientists currently predict the next major outburst won't take place until 2099. But, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported, the comet will be returning closer to Earth in 2031 and 2064, meaning more intense storms are on the horizon. Smaller showers, like the one occurring this weekend, happen annually. While the 2019 shower won’t bring hundreds of shooting stars an hour, it’s sure to be a delight in areas with clear skies and the absence of moonlight. How to watch the meteor shower Clear skies are essential for prime meteor shower viewing. Skyglow, the light pollution caused by localized streetlights, will block out the stars and negatively affect your viewing experience, so head somewhere far from city lights. When you’re outside in the dark, lie flat on your back with your feet facing south and look up at the vast sky. Give yourself 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the environment. Be sure to bring warm clothing, a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair and leave your telescope at home.