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January 5, 1994
In cinematic crime capers, when people are murdered, the killer is usually identified, captured, tried, and convicted within 2-3 hours. When people are murdered in real life, it does not work quite as quickly. Sometimes there is no conclusion to the case at all.
David Cox, a 27-year-old former United States Marine, was shot to death on a cold winter day near Boston in January of 1994. Over a quarter of a century later, his murder is a hard case as no one has been charged, and no suspects have been named.
When movie critics pan a picture, they often hear the ire of those involved in the production. Some believe David Cox paid a more morbid price, contending the murdered Marine was gunned down for giving a thumbs down to the Hollywood blockbuster “A Few Good Men.”
David Cox had always wanted to be a Marine. After graduating from high school in 1985, his dream came true.
After completing his basic training in Parris Island, South Carolina, David was stationed at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.
In a letter dated June 30, 1986, PFC (Private First Class) William Alvarado, another marine stationed at Guantanamo Bay, wrote to his Senator, alleging marine misconduct at the base, specifically the illegal firing of weapons into Cuban territory.
David’s squad leader, Christopher Valdez, says the platoon commander gave his men an implied but not stated order to carry out a “hazing” against Alvarado. In military terminology, this is called a “Code Red.”
Approximately two weeks later, David and nine other marines entered Alvarado’s room while he was sleeping. For several minutes, the fellow marines hazed their cohort as they stuffed a rag into his mouth, blindfolded and pummeled him. David served as the hazing barber as he forcibly cut Alvarado’s hair.
After approximately five minutes with the shears, David’s expression turned to fear when he noticed Alvarado was no longer struggling or breathing. The hazing promptly ended, and the unconscious Alvarado was rushed off base to a Miami hospital. He recovered, and his fellow marines, including David, were condemned for the hazing.
The ten men were brought up on various charges.
Seven of the attackers accepted “other than honorable” discharges from the Marines. Of those, only Valdez succeeded in getting his discharge upgraded to honorable.
David and two other marines refused the Corps’ offer of a military plea bargain. They believed they had done nothing wrong and said they were following the orders of their superiors. They were willing to take their chances in a court, even though that meant the chance of a court-martial and a 20-year sentence at Leavenworth federal prison.
The “obedience to orders” defense had been tried without success in two major cases: by the defendants at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials following World War II and by Lt. William Calley for the murder of native civilians in the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War. Adding to the difficulty was that the Colonel, who was said to have given the implied orders to attack Private Alvarado, denied he ever gave such an order, directly or implied.
At the end of the four-day court-martial hearing at Gitmo, however, David was convicted only of simple assault and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Because he had already served 38 days in the brig, the sentence was waived.
David completed his Marine career, serving out his final two years in North Carolina and overseas in South Korea and Panama. After he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps with the rank of corporal in 1989, he moved into an apartment with his girlfriend, Elaine Tinsley, in Natick, Massachusetts, 20 miles southwest of Boston.
If you are a movie aficionado, the story of the hazing At Guantanamo Bay may sound familiar.
Playwright Aaron Sorkin learned of the incident from his sister Deborah, a member of the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps who represented some of the marines who accepted the plea deals.
Sorkin developed the saga into the play “A Few Good Men” in 1989. Following the play’s successful 14-month run on Broadway, he began to adapt it into a film.
In 1992, six years after the incident at Gitmo, the movie “A Few Good Men” was released. The legal drama was directed by Rob Reiner and starred in a slate of Hollywood heavyweights led by Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, and Kevin Bacon.
“A Few Good Men” concerns the court-martial of two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine and the tribulations of their lawyers in defending them. Like the Broadway play, the film was a hit, grossing over $140 million and garnering four Academy Award nominations, including that of Best Picture.
A few people, however, were not fans of “A Few Good Men.”
The film is set in Guantanamo Bay. The victim is PFC William Santiago, who, like the real-life PFC William Alvarado, wrote a letter to officials complaining of illegal firing into Cuban territory. As in the real-life court-martial, the key defense element was that the Marines followed implied orders from their superiors.
The marines involved in the hazing of Private Alvarado were angered that Hollywood was making millions of dollars telling a fictionalized version of the events, which painted them in a negative light. The movie had an accidental murder and dishonorable discharge for the two fictional Marines. In reality, no one died, and no one was dishonorably discharged.
David, in particular, was angered by the portrayal of him and his fellow marines as villains.
Following the release of “A Few Good Men,” David and five fellow former Marines, including Squad Leader Christopher Valdez, sued Castle Rock Entertainment, the movie production company that produced “A Few Good Men.”
The lawsuit, filed in federal district court, alleged, among other things: invasion of privacy, civil conspiracy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Marines claimed the filmmakers “stole [their] real-life story, changed a few names, and passed it off as their own creation.”
David spoke about the lawsuit on radio talk shows and also spoke candidly and critically of United States Marines’ actions at Guantanamo Bay.
When David’s girlfriend Elaine returned home from work on January 5, 1994, she found the apartment empty.
David’s truck was still in the driveway, with the keys in the ignition. His un-cashed paycheck from his temporary job with UPS was on the dashboard, and his 9-millimeter gun was in the glove box.
After David had not returned home by evening, Elaine reported him as missing.
On April 2, three months later, David’s body was found by a canoeist in a wooded area on the banks of the Charles River in Medfield, approximately five miles from his apartment. He appeared to have been killed execution-style, having been shot four times, three times in his torso and once in the back of his neck. His cash and credit cards were still in his wallet, ruling out robbery as a motive.
Neither the murder scene nor David’s apartment showed any signs of a struggle. Police believe his murder was not a random attack and that he left his home willingly with someone he knew on January 4, the day he was last seen. This person is believed to have driven David to the remote locale where he and an unsuspecting David walked into the woods. Police believe at no point did David believe he was in any danger.
The location where David’s body was found was nearly a mile into the woods, which were a common hunting area in which the sound of gunshots would not have caused alarm.
David liked to gamble and owed thousands of dollars to several bookies. Police, however, do not believe his debts were large enough to be targeted for murder and have stated drugs were not a factor in his murder.
Many, including David’s military lawyer Donald Marcari, believe his murder is related to his lawsuit against Castle Rock Entertainment over the depiction of the marines in “A Few Good Men.” No evidence, however, has been found to support the theory.
David’s brother, Steve, however, has another theory.
David was hired as a driver for UPS for the 1993 Christmas season. As he had hoped, UPS was prepared to hire him permanently.
On April 2, the day he was last seen, his supervisor at UPS left two messages on his answering machine telling him they would hire him. Neither message had been played when Elaine came home that evening; it is not known if David heard either of them.
Steve Cox says a couple of months before his brother disappeared, he had told him that a supervisor and another driver were involved in some illegal activity, which he believed was theft. Steve believes David’s murder may be connected to the alleged shenanigans at UPS.
Similar to the military angle, however, investigators have found no proof to corroborate the belief that David’s death was related to UPS.
Twenty-seven years after he was found shot to death in the frigid Boston forest, David Cox’s murder remains unsolved.
If you have any information on the murder of David Cox, please contact the Massachusetts State Police 508-894-2584.
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Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas. Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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