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    1. #1
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010

      Steven Anthony Cozzie - Florida Death Row

      Courtney Ann Wilkes, age 15

      State Attorney Bill Eddins says the state of Florida will seek the death penalty against Stephen Anthony Cozzie. Cozzie is charged with the death of 15-year old Courtney Wilkes of Lyons, Ga.

      Courtney had been vacationing at the beach with her family.

      Her body was found in a wooded area near a nature trail in the Seagrove area of South Walton County June 16. She was strangled and beaten to death, officials said.

      At the time, Sheriff Mike Adkinson said Cozzie has evil in his heart. Adkinson told reporters, "This is nothing more than pure evil."


    2. #2
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Private attorneys appointed in Cozzie murder case

      DeFUNIAK SPRINGS —Two private attorneys have been appointed to represent Steven Cozzie, the 22-year-old Seagrove Beach man who is charged with killing a teenage girl last June.

      His public defender, Lenny Platteborze, stepped down last week because of a conflict of interest with a witness in the case.

      “The public defender’s office represents a material witness in the defendant’s case,” Platteborze said in a document filed in Walton County Circuit Court late last month. “The prosecutor agrees there is a conflict.”

      On Thursday, Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells appointed attorneys Sharon Wilson from Pensacola and Jeremy Keich from DeFuniak Springs to represent Cozzie.

      The state has said it intends to pursue the death penalty in the case.

      Cozzie is charged with the murder of Courtney Wilkes, a 15-year-old girl from Lyons, Ga., who was killed June 16 while she was vacationing in Seagrove Beach with her family.

      Wilkes’ body was found in some woods less than five hours after her family last saw her on the beach with Cozzie. She had been strangled with a shirt, badly beaten and sexually assaulted, according to court records.

      By the middle of last month, Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore, who is prosecuting the case, had provided Platteborze with lists of at least 100 names of possible witnesses.

      The lists include 18-year-old Michael Spencer, who Walton County sheriff’s deputies said led them to Wilkes’ body. Spencer told deputies Cozzie had taken him into the woods to show him what he had done shortly after the killing, according to court records.

      Spencer also told deputies that Cozzie had talked about wanting to rape someone several days before the crime, according to court records.

      Wilkes’ parents, Cozzie’s mother, employees at a Tom Thumb store near where Wilkes’ body was found and several students at Northwest Florida State College also were on the witness lists.

      Copies of DNA evidence reports were provided to Platteborze on Aug. 3, according to court records.

      Elmore said he doesn’t expect the change in representation to slow down the case.

      “It really to my mind shouldn’t affect it too much,” Elmore said.

      A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Dec. 15 to determine when both sides will be ready to argue the case.


    3. #3
      Michael's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      I´m sure he doesen´t smile anymore. I think this is one of the worst nightmares for parents. Your child murdered during vacation.

    4. #4
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010

      Randall pleads guilty to murder, will testify against Cozzie

      DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Ira Alexander Randall will serve 20 years in prison for beating cohort Robert “R.J.” Dickens to death last year.

      Randall originally was charged with first-degree murder. However, he was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder with a weapon in exchange for agreeing to testify Steven Cozzie and Sara Hanks, Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore said Thursday.

      Cozzie faces the death penalty in connection with the brutal sexual assault and murder of a 15-year-old Georgia girl in June, Elmore said.

      Hanks was Randall’s girlfriend when Dickens was killed. She is charged with being an accessory after the murder.

      She is accused of helping Randall move Dickens’ body to a remote location Holmes County. She also hid Randall in a room at a hotel where she worked, a according to a news release from the state attorney’s office.

      Hanks faces up to 30 years in prison, Elmore said.

      Elmore declined to go into specifics of what Cozzie might have told Randall while they were in the Walton County Jail. He said only that Randall was “a witness to statements.”

      Randall killed Dickens on July 21, 2010, by hitting him several times with a heavy metal object. Law officers said the men knew one another and that it appeared they got into a fight over drugs or money.

      Walton County sheriff‘s deputies arrived at the scene of the killing after getting a tip. They did not find a body, but there was enough blood to assume the worst. Randall was located before Dickens’ body was found and he originally was charged with dealing in stolen property.

      Randall confessed to the killing and helped investigators find Dickens’ body in the Gritney community in Holmes County, according to law officers.

      Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson commended the state attorney’s office for the deal it reached with Randall.

      “I think the state’s attorney made the correct decision to bring about closure of this issue and help bring two other individuals to justice,” he said.


    5. #5
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      One Year Anniversary of Teen's Murder in Walton County

      Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of 15 year old Courtney Wilkes.

      The Lyons, Georgia teenager was killed by 21-year old Steven Cozzie, a local boy she befriended while on vacation with her family in Seagrove Beach.

      Wilkes went missing after she told her family she was taking a walk on the beach with Cozzie. Authorities found her beaten body hours later in a wooded area near the condo where her family was staying.

      Cozzie's trial has been delayed several times. He's currently being held in the Walton County Jail and charged with rape and murder. The state is seeking the death penalty in the trial scheduled for October 8th.

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    6. #6
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Trial to begin for accused murderer of Toombs Co. teen

      The man accused of killing a Toombs County teenager will have his day in court.

      The trial for 24-year-old Steven Cozzie is scheduled to begin Monday in Walton County, Florida.

      Cozzie is charged in the death of 15-year-old Courtney Wilkes of Lyons.

      Wilkes was found beaten and strangled to death June 16, 2011 while she was vacationing with her family in Seagrove Beach, Florida.

      The state is seeking the death penalty for Cozzie on the murder charge. He’s also charged with aggravated child abuse and kidnapping.

      Jury selection begins Monday in Florida, and the trial is expected to last two weeks.

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    7. #7
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Testimony begins in Cozzie murder trial

      Toni Wilkes, the mother of Courtney Wilkes, teared up on the witness stand Tuesday as she described the last words she spoke to her daughter: “OK baby, but be responsible.”

      Courtney, the oldest of three children of a family from tiny Lyons, Ga., looked ecstatic that day on the beach, more so when she received permission on June 16, 2011, to take a walk with “the lifeguard dude” who had become a casual acquaintance during the Wilkes’ weeklong vacation at the Beachcrest condominiums in Seagrove Beach.

      For 15-year-old Courtney, it was the first boy or man she’d been allowed to spend time alone with, Toni Wilkes said.

      “She was not allowed to date until she was 16. She never even asked,” her mother said.

      The Wilkes family watched Courtney walk off with the man they would come to know as 21-year-old Steven Cozzie. Some five hours later they would learn that she had been killed and Cozzie had been charged with murder.

      The trial began about 2 p.m. Tuesday after a day and a half was spent selecting a jury. It is expected to take two weeks.

      Cozzie, who wore glasses and a crew cut in court, could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. He also is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault and child abuse.

      Prosecutor Bobby Elmore made sure in his opening statement Tuesday afternoon that jurors knew just how brutal Courtney Wilkes’ death had been. He said evidence would show beyond any reasonable doubt that Cozzie had killed her.

      “Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam,” Elmore shouted across the courtroom. “Ten times I hit her.”

      Cozzie bragged about his deed to a witness, Michael Spencer, as he showed off Wilkes’ body, Elmore said.

      The crushing blows to the skull ended the life of the girl Cozzie had strangled nearly to death with his shirt, drug into the bushes off a nature trail, beaten, stripped and raped, Elmore told the jury.

      Although those in the courtroom had been warned against outbursts, Wilkes family members had to walk out twice during Elmore’s opening statement, some of them sobbing openly.

      Elmore furthered his argument with photos, including those of the crime scene and Courtney Wilkes’ ravaged body that drew an objection from defense attorney Spiro Kypreos.

      Kypreos compared Elmore’s opening to dragging a skunk through the jury box. “How do you get the smell out?” he asked.

      He reminded jurors that they will convict or not convict Cozzie based on evidence, not the theatrics of a prosecuting attorney.

      “Every single word he said to you for the last hour and 15 minutes are not evidence in this case. The photos he showed you are not evidence in this case at this time,” Kypreos said.

      Both attorneys urged jurors to listen to evidence as it was presented during the trial. Kypreos said witness Michael Spencer could be particularly key.

      Spencer, 18, at the time of the killing, had once boasted to Cozzie that he had killed two men, according to Elmore. Cozzie went to Spencer after killing Courtney Wilkes and took him to show him the body.

      Spencer was with Cozzie when emergency personnel, looking for Courtney Wilkes, questioned them. He told them nothing at first, but later after being urged by an Internet chat room friend and a relative to step forward, he took Walton County sheriff’s deputies to the body.

      According to statements given much later by Cozzie, Spencer held a gun on him and forced him to kill the young vacationer.

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    8. #8
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      Oct 2010

      Cozzie tapes end testimony in murder trial

      Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore let Steven Cozzie’s own words put the final touch Thursday to his case for conviction of first-degree murder.

      Two weeks after his arrest for the killing of 15-year-old vacationer Courtney Wilkes on June 16, 2011, Cozzie requested an interview with 30-year Walton County Sheriff’s Office veteran Stephen Sunday, the lead investigator in the case.

      When Sunday arrived at the jail he was presented with a written document that laid out what Cozzie was going to tell him. Cozzie then told Sunday that he had killed Wilkes, but was forced to do so at gunpoint by his friend, Michael Spencer.

      “He pulled out a gun and told me to kill her, so I killed her,” Cozzie told Sunday. “I’ve never had anything like that happen to me in my life.”

      The taped conversation was played Thursday afternoon for the jury trying Cozzie on charges of first-degree murder, rape, child abuse and kidnapping. The state will seek the death penalty if Cozzie is convicted.

      Elmore rested the prosecution’s case after the tape was played.

      Cozzie is accused of luring Wilkes away from her family and leading her to the secluded Cassine Gardens Nature Trail in Seagrove Beach. There, when she decided she wanted to return to her family, he pulled off his shirt and began to strangle her. The strangulation continued until the 6-foot, 2-inch Cozzie was able to subdue the smaller Wilkes, according to authorities. He then raped her and beat her to death with a piece of lumber.

      In another tape played for the jury Thursday, Cozzie denies over and over again the night of his arrest that he had killed Wilkes.

      In the second tape, recorded Aug. 1, 2011, Cozzie told Sunday that he had lied in an original interview by telling investigators he had never taken Wilkes to the nature walk where her body was found. He said he was there with the girl when he slipped and fell on her, and she was knocked unconscious when she hit her head on a cypress stump.

      “I seen blood, that’s why I panicked,” Cozzie told Sunday.

      He also said in the interview that he was high on marijuana and Ecstasy.

      Although a deputy testified Thursday that Cozzie had slept in his patrol car on the way to the county jail the night of his arrest, Cozzie said in his written statement to Sunday, “I had remorse” after killing Wilkes.

      “It was my job to bring the girl back safely and I failed,” he said.

      “The killing was not one of violence, it was me being forced to do it,” he said in his statement. “The truth is I was drug induced, and the truth is I was forced by Mike Spencer.”

      Cozzie told Sunday that Spencer wanted Wilkes dead and even discussed mutilating her.

      Spencer was a key figure in the investigation. He led deputies to Wilkes’ body the day of the killing and testified Wednesday that Cozzie had shown it to him and described what he had done to her.

      In the tape made the night of Cozzie’s arrest, officers tell him that Spencer has been cooperating with law enforcement.

      Jennifer Hatler, a DNA expert with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, provided testimony Thursday that put Cozzie at the scene and made the case that Spencer, the man Cozzie said forced him to kill Wilkes, was not present.

      Cozzie’s DNA was found on a Hawaiian shirt soaked with Wilkes’ blood that was found near the body, Hatler testified. His DNA also was discovered on the girl’s thigh, and her DNA was found under his fingernails.

      The likelihood that the DNA taken from Cozzie’s hands did not belong to Wilkes was “one in one quadrillion,” Hatler said.

      Defense attorney Spiro Kypreos also rested his case Thursday without calling any witnesses. He told Circuit Court Judge Kelvin Wells that he would save his witnesses for “the next phase” of the trial, indicating perhaps that he believes a murder conviction is a foregone conclusion and he’s preparing for the death penalty phase.

      He and Elmore will present final arguments Friday morning before the jury begins deliberations.

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    9. #9
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Cozzie Found Guilty On All Charges

      After four days of trial, the jury made a unanimous decision that Steven Cozzie is guilty of all charges including first degree murder.

      The other charges include sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated child abuse.

      During closing arguments, defense attorney Spiro Kypreos said they agree with the prosecutions claim that Cozzie killed Courtney Wilkes in June 2011 while the 15-year-old was on vacation from Georgia.

      The jury must now decide whether to sentence Cozzie to life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    10. #10
      Jan's Avatar
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      May 2011
      Murdered girl’s family testifies in Cozzie’s penalty phase

      Jurors reached for tissues Monday morning as they heard about the life of Courtney Wilkes and all that the Lyons, Ga., girl hoped to achieve before her life was cut short.

      Family members of Courtney, who was killed June 16, 2011, and her convicted killer, 23-year-old Steven Cozzie took the stand in court during the first day of the death penalty phase of Cozzie’s trial.

      “A third of my heart has been ripped out,” said Toni Wilkes, Courtney’s mother, as tears streamed down her face.

      “She was going to do something to change the world. She was going to make it better. … I’ll never be the same. My world will never be the same.”

      Cozzie was convicted Friday of the first-degree murder of Courtney. Now, the jurors will hear testimony and recommend whether Cozzie should receive the death sentence or life without parole. Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells will make the ultimate decision.

      Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore started the morning off with Wilkes’ parents and her godfather testifying on the bright young girl who was found strangled, raped and beaten to death two years ago.

      “She was the first one in our family plot. That wasn’t supposed to happen,” said Courtney’s father, Cordy Wilkes, his voice cracking.

      “I remember when she left (with Cozzie) and didn’t return. After a period of time, we came to the realization that she wouldn’t be back. If she could have come back, she would have.”

      After a morning of tears, the courtroom reconvened to hear from Cozzie’s family about his past, mental health and the stress he was under at the time of Courtney’s death.

      “This is tragic for Courtney Wilkes’ family, but it’s also tragic for Stephen Cozzie’s family,” said Sharon Wilson, defense attorney for Cozzie. “They’ve been separated by bars and glass walls for two years and that will be the case for the rest of his life no matter what you decide.”

      Cozzie’s half-brother, Jeffery Pedersen, and half-sister, Gwen Schmidt, testified that Cozzie was “slow” all of his life.

      “He was book smart but not street smart,” Pedersen said. “He was very immature, always hanging out with younger kids.”

      Pedersen added that he was the only family member to keep in contact with Cozzie after he was kicked out of the home of his mother, Melody Ellis, just two weeks before Courtney’s death.

      “He had been living on some boardwalk (and) at the pool house at Cassine Gardens and he kept his stuff on an empty cul-de-sac on Robert Ellis Road,” Pedersen said.

      His sister added to that testimony, stating that Cozzie didn’t appear to suffer from mental disability, but he was not on the same level as his peers.

      “He’s 23 now, but I think mentally he’s 17 or 18,” Schmidt said.

      His mother, Melody Ellis, said Cozzie was the son of a violent man. She testified that at the age of 4 he was taken away from her by his father until he was 16. During that time, Cozzie told his family he lived in abusive circumstances.

      “I was choked, hit. His father raped me once,” Ellis said. “I don’t know if Steven saw that or not. (Steven’s father) used to use Steven as a pawn and he would hurt Steven and blame my ex-husband. … But Steven stayed somewhat on track in school where he was in special education classes, but he was always somewhat slow.”

      Court will reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the DeFuniak Springs Courthouse for further testimony. Wells said he expects the proceedings to go on until at least Wednesday evening.


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