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Man accused of killing Rock Hill veteran at bar: 'I'm extremely sorry'

Jonathan McFadden
jmcfadden@heraldonline.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/12/14/57/171-tAj2.Em.6.jpeg|209
    - jmcfadden@heraldonline.com
    Eric Cobb waits for a bond hearing Monday afternoon. He is charged with murder in death of Odell Fields.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/12/16/45/397-1iyusi.Em.6.jpeg|421
    -
    Odell Williams
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/12/16/47/153-N5m8o.Em.6.jpeg|419
    - Jonathan McFadden, The Herald
    Eric Cobb's bond hearing Monday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/12/10/58/957-1n2b2l.Em.6.jpeg|230
    -
    Gregory Wallace
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/12/10/57/63-10XPsk.Em.6.jpeg|229
    -
    Eric Cobb

ROCK HILL The York man accused of killing a Vietnam War veteran and grandfather of eight over the weekend lowered his head in court, cried and apologized to the dead man’s family, swearing he “did not mean for this to happen the way it did.”

Sitting only feet away, the victim’s daughter also cried Monday as she clung to a friend and told Eric Cobb – charged with hitting Odell Fields in the head so hard that he fell to the ground unconscious and could not be revived – that over time he would be forgiven.

“I’ll keep his kids in my prayers,” Amanda Fields said during Cobb’s bond hearing in Rock Hill Municipal Court.

Cobb, 30, who has a previous conviction for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, said he was in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”

“I swear to God I did not mean for this to happen the way it did,” Cobb said, his voice cracking as tears welled in his eyes. “I swear to God...I swear to God. I would give my life to have his back.”

Fields, 66, died at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte on Sunday, a day after authorities say Cobb hit him in the head with his fists in the parking lot of the Sandbar restaurant and bar on Celanese Road in Rock Hill.

The bar’s manager and a bouncer told officers that Fields and another man, later identified as Gregory Wallace, began arguing just before 10 p.m. Saturday, according to a Rock Hill police report. Both Wallace and Fields were intoxicated, police said.

The manager and bouncer intervened, and Fields agreed to leave, the report states, but as he was doing so, Wallace approached him again and began yelling at him.

When the bouncer managed to restrain Wallace from attacking Fields, a third man, later identified as Cobb, “went around” the bouncer and punched Fields in the head, police said. Fields fell to the ground unconscious.

Cobb and Wallace ran away down Celanese Road, but were caught by officers patrolling the area.

Paramedics told police that Fields’ injuries were severe, the report states. He had no gag reflex and did not respond to pressure on his chest and ribs.

Police charged Wallace with public disorderly conduct. By Monday, he had been released from jail on a $470 bond.

Cobb was initially charged with first-degree assault and battery. Detectives on Monday upgraded that to murder upon learning that Fields had died after being taken off life support.

Wallace and Cobb were not regulars at the restaurant, which employees strive to gear towards families, said Sandbar owner Tommy Rice. Fields had been at the restaurant a few times in the past.

“We don’t tolerate any trouble here,” Rice said. “I wouldn’t allow stuff like that to happen if I can help it.”

On Saturday, employees asked Fields to leave the restaurant because he had had too much to drink, Rice said. Fields agreed to leave and went outside to wait for a cab, Rice said. That’s when the argument started.

“Our employees are pretty broken up about it,” Rice said. “It’s unfortunate...it’s horrible what happened.”

During Monday’s bond hearing, officers led Cobb, wearing a lime green jumpsuit and sporting bruises and welts on his face, into a tiny courtroom where he sat feet away from Amanda Fields. He dropped his head into his hands and wiped away tears as Municipal Court Judge Dolores Williams recounted the details of Fields’ assault.

After appointing a public defender to represent him, Williams told Cobb – himself the father of two daughters, ages 3 and 2 – she could not set his bond because municipal court judges are unable to set bonds on murder charges.

“I figured that, ma’am,” Cobb replied.

That’s when Cobb turned to Fields’ grieving relatives – a daughter, granddaughter and family friend.

“I’m extremely sorry,” he said, explaining that he was trying to “defuse” a confrontation between Fields and Wallace, his cousin. He admitted that a “punch was thrown.”

Amanda Fields, in tears, said in court that she believed in forgiveness. When she and relatives learned the unemployed Cobb had two daughters, they sobbed even harder. So did Cobb.

Before police escorted Cobb back to his jail cell, Amanda Fields said she would pray for his children.

Her father taught her the power of faith in God, she said after the hearing.

“He was a selfless man,” Fields said, with “a really strong faith in God.”

Fields was a Marine who served in the Vietnam War, said his nephew, Rick Gaskins, who described his uncle as a “small man of stature with a huge heart.”

“He served his country when a lot of people didn’t think it was the right to do,” Gaskins said. “He served in a war that a lot of people weren’t fond of.”

Fields grew up on a farm in Hartsville as one of nine children. He met his wife of 43 years, Tammy, when he was 21 and she was 16. They raised three children together and had eight grandchildren, relatives said.

“He helped me tremendously with my life,” said Amanda Fields, adding that Fields stepped in as a “father figure” to her children as she struggled with being a single mother.

“He never turned his back on his children,” said Mandy Sapough, who has known the family since she was 4. He worked hard, she said, and always “found a way to (provide) for their family.”

He only required the necessities, his family said, typically asking his relatives to buy him socks on his birthday. Those socks came in handy during long jaunts around he called “walkabouts,” his daughter said.

Golf ranked high among his favored pastimes.

“He was so short he would take regular golf clubs (and) cut them down to use them better,” said Gaskins, who last saw his uncle several months ago. “He was looking good. I remember him being young and fun and full of laughs.

“It’s just a shame that...some young kid just loses his temper and does that to someone who’s got so many people who love him.

“At the core of it, he was a big-hearted, big-loving man.”

Cobb, whose criminal history includes past a past conviction of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, said he was in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”

“I swear to God I did not mean for this to happen the way it did,” Cobb said, his voice cracking under the weight of tears. “I swear to God...I swear to God. I would give my life to have his back.”

Odell Fields, 66, died at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte on Sunday, a day after authorities say Cobb, 30, of York hit him in the head with his fists in the parking lot of the Sandbar restaurant and bar on Celanese Road just before 10 p.m. Saturday.

Police spoke with the bar's manager and a bouncer, who told officers Fields and another man, later identified as Gregory Wallace, began arguing, according to a Rock Hill police report. Both Wallace and Fields, police said, were intoxicated. The manager and a bouncer tried to intervene. Fields agreed to leave, but as he was doing so, Wallace approached him again and began yelling at him, the report states.

The bouncer managed to restrain Wallace from physically attacking Fields, but a third man, later identified as Cobb, “went around” the bouncer and punched Fields in the head, police said. Fields fell to the ground unconscious. Both Cobb and Wallace took off running down Celanese Road, until other officers patrolling the area found and arrested them.

Paramedics told police that Fields’ injuries were severe, the report states. He had no gag reflex and did not respond to pressure on his chest and ribs.

Police charged Wallace with public disorderly conduct. By Monday, he had been released from jail on a $470 bond. Cobb was initially charged with first-degree assault and battery. Police on Monday upgraded that charge to murder once learning that Fields died in Charlotte after he was taken off life support.

Wallace and Cobb were not regulars at the restaurant, which employees strive to gear towards families, said Tommy Rice, owner of the Sandbar. Fields had been at the restaurant a few times in the past.

"We don't tolerate any trouble here...I wouldn't allow stuff like that to happen if I can help it," Rice said.

On Saturday, employees asked Fields to leave the restaurant because he had too much to drink, Rice said. Fields agreed to leave and went outside to wait for a cab, Rice said. That’s when the argument started.

"Our employees are pretty broken up about it," Rice said. "It's unfortunate...it's horrible what happened."

During Monday’s bond hearing, officers led Cobb, wearing a lime green jumpsuit and sporting bruises and welts on his face, into a tiny courtroom where he sat feet away from Amanda Fields. He dropped his head into his hands and wiped away tears as Municipal Court Judge Dolores Williams recounted the details of Fields’ assault.

After approving him for a public defender, she told Cobb, father to two daughters ages 3 and 2, she could not set his bond because municipal court judges are unable to set bonds on murder charges.

“I figured that, ma’am,” he replied.

Cobb turned to grieving relatives — a daughter, granddaughter and family friend. “I’m extremely sorry,” he said, explaining that he was trying to “diffuse” a confrontation between Fields and Wallace, his cousin. He admitted that a “punch was thrown.”

Fields, according to Cobb, fell and hit his head on the ground. He never woke up. Amanda Fields, in tears, said aloud in court that she believed in forgiveness. When she and relatives learned the unemployed Cobb had two daughters, they sobbed even harder. So did Cobb. Before police escorted Cobb back to his jail cell, Amanda Fields said she would pray for his children.

Her father taught her the power of faith in God, she told The Herald.

“He was a selfless man,” she said with “a really strong faith in God.”

Fields was a Marine who served in the Vietnam War during the latter half of the conflict, said his nephew, Rick Gaskins, who described his uncle as a "small man of stature with a huge heart."

"He served his country when a lot of people didn't think it was the right to do," Gaskins said. "He served in a war that a lot of people weren't fond of."

Fields grew up on a farm in Hartsville as one of nine children. He met his wife of 43 years, Tammy, when he was 21 and she was 16. They remained together for four decades, raising three children. Together, they had eight grandchildren, relatives said.

“He helped me tremendously with my life,” said Amanda Fields, adding that Fields stepped in as a “father figure” as she struggled to raise her children as a single mother.

“He never turned his back on his children,” said Mandy Sapough, who has known the family since she was 4. He worked hard, she said, and always “found a way to (provide) for their family.”

He only required the necessities, his family said, typically asking his relatives to buy him socks on his birthday. Those socks came in handy during long jaunts around he called “walkabouts,” his daughter said.

Golf ranked high among his favored pastimes.

“He was so short he would take regular golf clubs (and) cut them down to use them better,” said Gaskins, who last saw his uncle several months ago. “He was looking good.”

"I remember him being young and fun and full of laughs," Gaskins said. "It's just a shame that...some young kid just loses his temper and does that to someone who's got so many people who love him."

"At the core of it, he's a big-hearted, big loving man," Gaskins said. "Small in stature but big in love, big in heart."

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