Updated at 9:30 p.m. with comments from Wesley Bell
ST. LOUIS COUNTY — A major break in the 25-year-old Angie Housman case has led prosecutors to reconsider a separate child molestation case, and has spurred calls to the St. Charles County Police Department.
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar announced Wednesday that Earl W. Cox, 61, had been identified through DNA and charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sodomy in connection with the death of 9-year-old Angie Housman from St. Ann.
Lohmar also released a picture of Cox taken around the time Angie disappeared in 1993, urging the public to contact police if they recalled seeing him in the area. Police still are trying to determine whether Cox acted alone and where he kept Angie during the nine days she was missing.
“It’s been a steady stream,” Lohmar said of the calls. “We have a few more leads to pursue.”
He did not elaborate.
Primary investigators, Lt. Col. John Lankford of St. Ann police and Lt. Ed Copeland of St. Charles County police, have been pursuing leads ever since learning Cox’s identity March 1, Lohmar said.
Among them was tracking down one of two 7-year-old girls Cox was accused of molesting in 1989 — just four years before Angie went missing. The offenses allegedly occurred in a park behind Angie’s elementary school in Overland.
In that case, Overland police arrested Cox on suspicion of child molestation. He was charged with assault, but, ultimately, charges were dropped.
Copeland and Lankford tracked down one of the two victims out of state, and she has agreed to testify against Cox, Lohmar said.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said he believes investigators will meet with the victim sometime next week.
“With a case so sensitive in nature, it’s important to talk to the victim to make sure they’re comfortable,” he said. “Based on the information we have right now, I believe we will be filing charges next week.”
The charge Bell said he is considering is forcible rape of a minor. He said his investigators are trying to determine through archived court records why the previous case was ultimately dropped, but he’s not sure they’ll ever know because finding records on a case that was dismissed 20 years ago could prove impossible.
He said he feels more confident about the case this time than his predecessors did.
“The difference is that we now have a victim who is testifying,” he said.
Cox’s arrest in that case was enough to revoke his federal parole in 1992. He was serving parole after having been convicted in 1982 of molesting four little girls he babysat while stationed at an Air Force base in Germany.
He spent almost all of 1992 in prison at Fort Leavenworth, and was released 11 months before Angie was found dead.
In that case, police say Cox kidnapped Angie after she hopped off her school bus just a half-block from her St. Ann home, sexually assaulted and tortured her for nine days and left her tied to a tree in a wooded area of St. Charles County.
A hunter found her nude body partly covered with snow on Nov. 27, 1993. The medical examiner determined she died from exposure.
Duct tape covered her head, except for her nose. A torn piece of her underwear had been used as a gag. She was handcuffed behind her back. Deep lacerations to both of her wrists and her right thigh showed the torture she endured, according to court documents.
Police believe she “struggled extensively” to free herself before she died, according to court documents.
Cox resurfaced on law enforcement radar in 2002 when he was arrested for his role in an international online child pornography ring. He was convicted in 2003 and completed his sentence for those crimes in 2011, but remains in a federal prison under “civil commitment.”
The designation allows the government to keep a prisoner incarcerated if he or she is deemed highly likely to re-offend. Cox has unsuccessfully appealed his confinement. He is expected to be extradited to face the new charges in Missouri.