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Child molester. International internet child pornography king. Disgraced Air Force veteran.

Now, prosecutors have added another entry to the résumé of Earl W. Cox: suspected child killer.

Cox, 61, is a civilly committed inmate in North Carolina. In announcing charges filed against Cox on Wednesday, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said DNA links him to the 1993 murder of 9-year-old Angie Housman. The case sat cold for 25 years until a DNA test earlier this year connected him to the crime.

Cox’s life is extensively documented in court files, military records and media coverage of some of his previous arrests involving children, but the records are also unclear on some aspects of his history.

According to records, he was born and reared in the St. Louis area. He had two older sisters and two younger brothers.

He told psychologists that his parents were heavy drinkers and that he saw his father rape his mother when he was 7, according to documents from his court-martial proceedings. His father died when he was 12. Cox described “his life as having ended when his father died,” according to the records.

A year later, his mother married a U.S. merchant mariner, also a heavy drinker who verbally and physically abused him, his mother and his siblings, Cox told psychotherapists.

At one point, his mother used a wheelchair after his stepfather severely beat her and pushed her down stairs, according to the documents.

He told psychotherapists he began running away from home and drinking at the age of 12.

After graduating in 1975 from Jennings High School, Cox joined the Air Force. He trained in computer operations at the Air Force Technical School in Biloxi, Mississippi, and served as a computer operator for five years.

His military records show that he was on active service from September 1978 to October 1984, and discharged at the rank of a basic airman.

Cox’s criminal record begins at Rhein-Main Air Force Base near Frankfurt, Germany.

In 1982, he was convicted of sexually molesting four girls, ages 7 to 11, for whom he babysat while in Germany. He was sentenced to eight years at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, but was released early. Records are unclear about how much time he served.

Overland police arrested him in October 1989, after he allegedly had inappropriate contact with two 7-year-old girls at the movies and a park not far from where Angie disappeared, according to court documents.

St. Louis County prosecutors charged him with assault, but eventually dismissed the case. Records are unclear about why.

But his arrest was enough to revoke his parole, and he was sent back to Fort Leavenworth to serve more of his sentence for the offenses in Germany. He remained there from January through December 1992.

Off the radar

Cox had to give an address upon his release from prison, so police believe he gave the last address he knew: his mother’s former home on Wismer Avenue.

It’s about a half mile from Angie’s bus stop.

It’s unclear whether he lived there at the time of her abduction.

He told psychotherapists he moved in with a married woman in Ferguson not long after his release, but he had at least two relatives whom he frequently visited near his mom’s old address, police said.

Eleven months into his freedom, Angie disappeared.

And so did Cox — from the criminal justice system at least.

For about the next 10 years, it appears he didn’t face any new criminal charges.

He moved out of the married woman’s home in 1996, and at some point moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to court documents.

As the internet was becoming more mainstream, he found a new purpose in online child porn.

Sometime in 1997, police say, Cox put his knowledge about computers to work and became a ringleader in the international child pornography network known as the “Shadowz Brotherhood.”

Users who posted a certain number of images were promoted within the group and could gain access to even more images. He oversaw the network’s online bulletin board group known as “The Panty Raiders/Lolita Lovers” for years. He dubbed himself “The Wizard.”

Cox attracted the attention of law enforcement in November 2002, when he sent sexually explicit emails using the screen name “YoungStuff” to an undercover FBI agent he thought was a 14-year-old girl named “Brenda.”

Prosecutors said Cox sent “Brenda” money to travel from Virginia to Colorado so she could be his “sex slave.” He told the girl to wear a short skirt, red tube top and no underwear. When he met her, he said only, “You don’t look 14,” before police moved in to arrest him.

The moment marked the unraveling of an underground child porn network that authorities worldwide had been trying to bust for years. And Cox was one of its leaders, according to court documents.

Federal agents found more than 45,000 still images and videos of child pornography on his computer. The discovery led to multiple search warrants. Children seen in some of the images and videos were rescued, including one little girl who had been abused by her own father.

About 60 people were arrested in 11 countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada, according to an account in the Colorado Gazette in 2003.

Cox was sentenced to 120 months and three years of probation.

Just months before his projected release date in 2011, federal prosecutors applied to certify him a sexually dangerous person under the 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

The act allows the government to keep offenders incarcerated as part of a legal status known as a “civil commitment” beyond a completed criminal sentence.

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In his own words

As part of the civil commitment proceedings, several forensic psychotherapists interviewed Cox.

One noted that in 2012, he “expressed no empathy for his victims and has failed to acknowledge any wrongdoing on his part.”

He blamed the molestation in Germany on several factors, including pain medication he was taking after a car crash, his father’s death, and the abuse he and his mother had suffered at the hands of his stepfather.

“Bordering on delusional,” is how one doctor characterized Cox’s explanation of his involvement in the online child porn network.

He claimed he was injured at work, telling doctors that he was employed as a clerk at two convenience stores in Colorado Springs. He said he was also self-employed, running a business called “Arousal Exteriors,” which he described as a female modeling agency.

Cox told doctors that, while recovering from his injury, he passed the time in adult sex chat rooms. When he found child pornography, he claimed, he wanted to put a stop to the exploitation of children. So, he “put in motion” a “plan to get busted so that the feds could use the computer information he had to prosecute the others involved.”

He claimed he knew “Brenda” was a federal agent and that “we brought the group down.”

He told another psychotherapist that interacting with other child porn purveyors was like “group therapy” for him.

He also noted that he planned to open his own siding business and asked to be placed in a halfway house because he had no suitable friends or relatives with whom to live after his release.

But the government sided with federal prosecutors, committing him civilly as a sexually dangerous person in 2012.

He has appealed that decision, as he and others held on civil commitments have the right to do every six months.

In 2013, Cox wrote that decision-makers should consider his “spotless” prison record and that he currently suffers from medically related mobility issues that could make it impossible for him to re-offend.

During an appeal hearing, one psychotherapist argued that Cox was still likely to abuse, despite his medical issues.

But the expert testified that none of Cox’s “hands-on” crimes had involved chasing or “snatching” children and did not “require much physical strength or stamina.”

“He doesn’t snatch children off the streets,” he wrote.

Robert Patrick of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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