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Charges dropped; pastor's case goes to grand jury

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POSTED July 2, 2014 2:06 p.m.

The fate of Rob Cox now rests in the hands of the Clark County Grand Jury.

On Wednesday, the Las Vegas prosecutor dropped the murder case against the Manteca pastor in a technical move that essentially transfers the case from the open courtroom to a sealed, closed session – leaving the decision on whether to move forward with formal charges of murder up to 17 members who could decide as early as Tuesday whether they’ll indict Cox.

A motion by Cox’s attorneys to return the $100,000 cash bail amount that was posted in order to release him from San Joaquin County Jail on the condition that he appear in a Las Vegas courtroom was granted Wednesday afternoon, and one of his attorneys, Frank Cofer, said that he would now be heading home.

“Right now he’s getting ready to await the grand jury’s decision,” Cofer said. “We’re confident that he’ll be exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”

Cox was arrested last month at The Place of Refuge – where he is an associate pastor that works closely with the youth in the church – on a Clark County murder warrant.

He spent almost a week in the San Joaquin County Jail and was originally set to be extradited to Nevada to answer to the charges. Prosecutors allege that Cox punched 55-year-old Link Ellingson in the face after the 6-foot, 8-inch man charged the 18-member group that Cox had been traveling with from Texas back to California, knocking the man to the ground.

Ellingson sustained a major head injury, and died after the large-diameter vein that carries blood from the heart to brain was pierced during a surgical procedure. The Clark County medical examiner wrote in his assessment that because Ellingson bled out during treatment to correct a problem that stemmed from the assault, the outstanding charge of assault – which was filed in October, four months after the melee occurred – should be upgraded to murder.

Ever since he was arrested Cox has denied that he punched Ellingson and that he was legitimately in fear for his life and the lives of his children and his wife and the young people in his care. He claims he wrapped his arms around Ellingson and fell to the ground.

Elements of the police report, he says, are completely false and misleading and damaging to his case – like the mention that he had the young people huddled up and talking about getting their stories straight before the police showed up.

The group, he said, gathered around Ellingson to pray and “put hands on him” as he laid on the sidewalk.

Wednesday’s legal proceeding was not unexpected. After the grand jury was brought in and summoned the 18 young people who were present – 15 of which had never been interviewed by police – it became a situation where a preliminary hearing couldn’t take place before an indictment had actually been issued. If the grand jury were to indict Cox, the legal process that he was just cleared of would begin again and the preliminary trial date would be reinstated.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email jcampbell@mantecabulletin.com or call 209.249.3544.

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