By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS Associated Press
NEW ALBANY, Miss. (AP) — If all goes as scheduled, 23-year-old Lindsey Kirk will be at a Mississippi prison this week to watch the execution of the stepfather who terrorized her family, sexually assaulted her when she was a child and killed her mother.
David Neal Cox is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Wednesday at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The state Supreme Court set the execution date after Cox relinquished all appeals.
In 2012, he pleaded guilty to capital murder for the May 2010 slaying of his estranged wife, Kim Kirk Cox, as well as multiple other charges including sexual assault on his stepdaughter. A jury handed down the death sentence, and Cox has filed court papers calling himself “worthy of death.”
“When I found out that he was wanting to go ahead and get it over with, I wasn’t really happy about it. Like, I kind of just wanted him to sit there,” Kirk told The Associated Press last week. “I guess I’m OK with it now.”
This will be Mississippi’s first execution since 2012, as states have had difficulty finding lethal injection drugs because pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products to carry out death sentences.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves will not delay the execution or grant clemency, spokeswoman Bailey Martin said Tuesday.
“The Governor has reviewed the facts of this case and there is no question that David Cox committed these horrific crimes. Mr. Cox has admitted his guilt on multiple occasions and has been found competent by both the Circuit Court and Mississippi Supreme Court,” Martin said. “Further, Mr. Cox himself filed a motion requesting that all appeals be dismissed and his execution date be set.”
Kirk said she misses her mother every day and has two tattoos in her memory: Kim Cox’s birthdate in Roman numerals and a dolphin, her mother’s favorite animal. Kirk was a small child when her mother married Cox, and she was 8 before her mother told her another man was her biological father.
Cox was a commercial truck driver until he injured his back and started receiving disability checks, Kirk said. She said he used methamphetamine in front of her. She said he also sexually assaulted her “for a few years” when her mother was out of the house, but she was afraid to tell anyone because “he always told me that he’d kill us” if she told.
While staying with her grandparents in the summer of 2009, Kirk worked up the courage: “I texted Mama and told her.”
David Cox was soon arrested and jailed in north Mississippi. Court records show he was charged with statutory rape, sexual battery, child abuse and possession of methamphetamine. He was released from jail in April 2010, without going on trial.
After David Cox’s release from jail, Kim Cox got a restraining order against him and moved in with her sister, Kristie Salmon, taking Lindsey and two younger sons. One day, Kim saw David at an intersection. She told relatives that David held his hand up like a gun and pointed it at her three times.
Within days, he killed her.
On May 14, 2010, 12-year-old Lindsey Kirk was sitting on the couch while her aunt cooked supper. One of her brothers was outside playing basketball. Her mother was in the back of the house filling the bathtub for her other little brother.
“A gunshot came through the screen door, and he ran in and told me not to move,” Kirk said of her stepfather, who chased her aunt out of the house.
Kirk was not in the room when her stepfather shot her mother in the arm and abdomen, but he soon took her back there.
“Mama was laying on the floor. She was bleeding,” Kirk said. Her brother “was balled up in a closet.”
Her stepfather sexually assaulted her three times in front of her dying mother — even as police surrounded the home and tried to get him to release the hostages.
On the day of the attack, Kim’s father and stepmother were three hours from home at a track meet with one of their children. Salmon called and told them David Cox had shown up at her house and started shooting. Kim, Lindsey and one son were trapped inside.
Benny and Melody Kirk immediately started driving back, and David Cox called while they were on the way. Benny Kirk said he talked to Kim, who had already been shot.
“I told her we was coming just as quick as we could get there,” Benny Kirk said. “And she said, ‘Daddy, I’m dying.'”
Benny Kirk said Cox blamed him, Melody, Kim and Lindsey for the arrest: “He told me over the phone that he meant to kill all of us.”
Melody Kirk said dozens of officers, multiple ambulances and a helicopter were at the house when they arrived. She said David Cox by then was refusing to talk to officers, so she had to take on the role of negotiator, trying to persuade him to let the family go.
The ordeal lasted more than eight hours before officers got the two children got out, recovered Kim Cox’s body and arrested David Cox. Authorities said their last confirmation of Kim still being alive was after midnight May 15.
Kim Cox’s father and stepmother describe Kim as a caring mother who was generous toward others. They said they didn’t know David had been abusive to her or her children until Lindsey spoke up.
Benny Kirk wants to witness his son-in-law’s execution if a spot is available, saying simply: “He’s evil.”
Questions remain about whether David Cox was responsible for the 2007 disappearance of his brother’s wife, Felicia Cox, who was last seen in a neighboring county. Her daughter, Amber Miskelly, recently told WTVA-TV that David Cox was the last person to see her mother alive. Lindsey Kirk said her mother and Felicia Cox were close friends. Benny and Melody Kirk said they wonder if Cox will confess to his sister-in-law’s death before he is executed.
Benny and Melody Kirk raised Lindsey and her two younger brothers after Kim’s death. Lindsey calls them Mamaw and Papaw, and they say she’s their angel. The boys are now young men, 18 and 19 years old. The couple said the younger son does not like to talk about his mother’s death or his father’s impending execution, and the older son is still fearful Cox might come back and hurt him.
“I’ve told him,” Melody Kirk said, “a dead person can’t hurt anybody.”