Needles man gets 15 to life for cold case murder
SAN BERNARDINO • A Needles man was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years to life in prison for the 1982 murder of his girlfriend after her severed head and hand washed up on the banks of the Colorado River.
Jimmy Joe Cox, 72, was sentenced at San Bernardino Superior Court Tuesday morning for the murder of Carole Spearman, who was reported missing Dec. 23, 1982. She was 24 at the time.
He was convicted Dec. 19, 2011 at Barstow Superior Court just a few days before the 29th anniversary of the day she went missing.
“At last, we have a measure of justice for the loss of our beloved daughter and sister,” Spearman’s mother, Joy Rowlinson, wrote in a statement.
Deputy District Attorney John Thomas said he was pleased with the outcome of the trial, adding that this was the oldest murder case ever brought to trial by his team, the San Bernardino County Cold Case Unit.
“I think it was a great outcome for the victim and her family in this case,” Thomas said. “The fact that the verdict came in a few days before the 29-year anniversary of the murder and a few days before the holidays was great for the family to have that sense of closure at that point.”
Cox’s Public Defender Edward Wilson said he did not believe there was sufficient evidence to convict without reasonable doubt, especially since much of the case evidence was circumstantial, relying mostly on testimony.
Wilson said he’s already filed for an appeal for Cox, who has maintained his innocence throughout the trial.
Cox was originally investigated in the case but was not charged until he was re-arrested for Spearman’s murder in May 2010 at the Colorado River Sheriff’s Station. After the Needles Police Department was dissolved in 1989 the investigation sat on cold-case shelves for 27 years, but was reopened in 2009 by the San Bernardino Cold Case team.
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