In May 1996, the 11-year-old stepdaughter of Terry Cox Sr. accused him of molesting her in their Sioux City, Iowa home. At the time, Cox and his wife were having marital difficulties.
Cox, 27, denied the accusation and a medical examination was negative for abuse. In July 1996, he was charged with two counts of second degree sexual abuse by the Woodbury County Attorney’s Office.
Cox rejected two separate offers to plead guilty to reduced charges and went to trial in May 1997. The girl testified that Cox had inappropriately touched her, but was vague about what exactly he did—a fact later noted by the trial judge.
A jury deliberated for nine hours before convicting him on May 29, 1997. Cox was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
He lost his first appeal and a second was pending in 1999 when the girl, who had moved to Oregon with her mother after she divorced Cox, moved back to Sioux City to live with her natural father. On July 23, 1999, she gave a tape recorded interview to an investigator for Cox in which she said she had concocted the claim because she was jealous of how much time her mother was spending with Cox.
“I thought I’d make up a lie so he wouldn’t be around,” she said on the tape. “When I made up that lie, it went a little too far. I didn’t mean for him to go to prison or get arrested.”
A petition for a new trial was filed and two years after the recantation, a hearing was conducted on April 16, 2001. On April 23, 2001, a judge vacated the conviction and granted a new trial. Cox was released from prison on April 25, 2001.
On May 7, 2001 the charges were dismissed.
Cox filed a claim with the State Appeal Board seeking damages. On July 3, 2002, the claim was settled for $197,812.
– Maurice Possley