A Mecklenburg County jury on Tuesday convicted a former Marine of second-degree murder in connection with a fatal crash that he caused while driving drunk.
Witnesses say Iraq War veteran Eric Cox was more concerned about the damage to his SUV than the condition of his victims in the November 2011 collision that killed a mother and seriously injured her toddler son.
Superior Court Judge Yvonne Evans sentenced Cox to more than 17 years in prison. Along with the murder charge, Cox was convicted of driving while impaired, failure to comply with license restriction, and felony serious injury by vehicle.
“This case is another tragic example of the deadly consequences of driving while impaired,” Assistant District Attorney Max Diaz said after the verdict. “We will continue our work seeking justice on behalf of the people of this state and to keep our community safe.”
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Cox already had been convicted of DWI the year before the crash and had been ordered by a judge to keep his blood alcohol level at 0.04 or below.
Instead, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving three years go, Cox went clubbing well into Monday morning, Nov. 28, said Diaz and co-prosecutor Heidi Perlman. He then ran a red light at The Plaza and East Sugar Creek Road, striking the car driven by H’luon Siu.
Siu, 26, had picked up her 4-year-old son, Khai, after finishing the second shift at Metrolina Greenhouses. She was killed almost immediately in the crash. Khai was seriously injured.
On the first day of Cox’s trial, the boy – with a nurse and an oxygen tank trailing him – walked into the courtroom after testimony had already begun, drawing every eye. His father said the boy was in a coma for two weeks, suffering brain trauma and other serious injuries that still affect him today.
Cox, 34, was found to have a 0.17 alcohol level – four times the limit set by the judge in his earlier DWI case.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Jacques Morris said Cox repeatedly denied that he’d been drinking when questioned at the scene. Instead, Morris testified that Cox asked him repeatedly to look at the damage to his Chevy Yukon, never inquiring about the passengers in the other car.
Morris said Cox’s apparent lack of concern angered him.
“I was mad because a woman had died ... a kid was hurt, and he wanted me to look at the damage to his car,” Morris told the jury. “He was more worried about his car than he was another human being. And that made me mad.”
Discharged from the Marines a decade ago, Cox appeared in court with a decided military bearing – gray suit, white shirt, burgundy tie and short-cropped brown hair. With his family sitting behind him, Cox showed little emotion during testimony.
On various websites, Cox said he ran a real estate company, operated a nonprofit to help returning war veterans and had written a book about his experiences in Iraq called “Cpl Cox.”
One of the sites said Cox had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his military service.