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Cox appears in Las Vegas courtroom

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POSTED June 14, 2014 1:37 a.m.

Manteca pastor Robert Cox has maintained his innocence in the murder case of 55-year-old Link Ellingson from the start.

And on Friday he made it official.

Nearly two weeks after he was arrested by Manteca Police Department officers at The Place of Refuge – where he is an associate pastor – Cox appeared in a Las Vegas courtroom to answer to the charges that allege that a punch that he threw caused Ellingson, who was intoxicated and making crude comments to the group Cox was leading, to fall to the ground and hit his head.

While he didn’t technically enter a not guilty plea, Cox’s decision to move forward to a preliminary hearing amounted to as much according to his lawyer, Warren Gellar.

The lynchpin in the case is whether or not Cox – who was there with his family to lead a group of 22 people on a ministry outreach trip – did in fact throw the punch that knocked Ellingson to the ground and caused the head injury that would eventually lead to his death.

When he appeared on Fox and Friends with wife Julie earlier this week to be interviewed by Elizabeth Hasselbeck, the 35-year-old father of two said that the description of the incident in the police warrant summons was “so far from the truth” and added that all he did was react to a situation in which he was in fear for his life and the lives of those he was there to supervise and protect.

“I don’t think that there was anything that went wrong. I acted – I felt threatened – and I was scared for my life. When watching my students get attacked and knowing that my daughter was watching it all go down out of the RV window – I was just acting. Protecting myself and protecting those around me.

“So I’m not sure what went wrong, but all I was doing was defending myself.”

Gellar said that Nevada is a “stand your ground” state meaning that Cox had every right to defend himself without having to search for the “retreat” scenario that would be applicable in California.

After being arrested by Manteca Police on an outstanding Nevada murder warrant, Cox spent a week in San Joaquin County Jail while Gellar, who was already retained to represent Cox in the case, worked on his release. He negotiated a conditional release on a $100,000 cash bond, but Cox had to spend the weekend in jail because the transaction had to be verified by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office before it became official.

He was released on Monday and by Wednesday was on his way to Las Vegas to meet with Gellar. He left to come back to Manteca shortly after the court proceedings on Friday, and won’t appear back before a judge until July 2.

“I can tell you that my husband is my hero. He fought for me, he fought for our children and he fought for the group that was with us,” Cox’s wife Julie said to Hasselbeck. “We keep hearing that there were children with us but our intern group was all adults and he fought for all of them. There was a group of us – 22 of us altogether – god. He’s just my hero.

“He did an amazing thing and the courage that goes with that is indescribable.”

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