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Determination of 2 detectives helps solve 27-yo cold case murder

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    ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Missouri (KMOV) — From the day 9-year-old Angie Housman disappeared from her St. Ann bus stop in 1993, Lt. Ed Copeland with St Charles County police and Lt. Col. John Lankford with St. Ann police have been heavily involved in the case.

“When she was taken, I was in patrol and remember very clearly what our department looked like, with the Major Case Squad being called,” said Lankford.

Nine days after she was abducted and then sexually assaulted, a deer hunter found Housman in the August A Busch Wildlife Area in St. Charles County, tied to a tree and left to die. An autopsy found she died of hypothermia.

“Most of her body was covered with ice and snow,” said Copeland, who was the first officer on scene after Housman’s body was discovered.

The Major Case Squad worked for more than a year to find her killer, but disbanded in 1994 with no answers. That gave way to a 26-year-mission for Copeland and Lankford.

“I don’t think a week went by that I didn’t go check some fact out in the case,” said Copeland.

“There were so many leads to this and so many people determined to solve it, that you couldn’t say that that lead was not a good lead to look at,” said Lankford. “It would get to the point that if we had 15 leads called in, in that week we were going to have 15 different investigations going.”

In 2017, 24 years after Housman’s rape and murder, investigators were convinced they finally found the killer. But clues lead to another dead end. However, just two years later, a shocking came announcement from St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar at a June press conference.

“We have a suspect and we have formally charged an individual with the murder, abduction and sexual assault of Angie Housman,” Lohmar said at the press conference.

New technology allowed for DNA testing of a piece of Housman’s underwear from the crime scene. The match led officers to Earl Webster Cox.

“I like screamed out, it was unbelievable I had waited on that for so long,” said Copeland.

“I did pull over and start crying, and couldn’t get my breath crying,” said Lankford.

After the charges, investigators and prosecutors would work for the next year to build their case against Cox.

“We spent almost a year doing homework on him, a lot of traveling, obviously a monster like this, we found other victims, which created other investigations,” sand Lankford.

In 2020, Cox pled guilty to murder and child molestation. He’ll spend the rest of his life in prison. During the investigation, authorities were able to link Cox to another sexual assault of a 7-year-old girl in St. Louis County; those crimes happened in 1988 and 1989, before Housman’s murder.

“I mentioned Earl Cox’s name and remember her crying or just getting upset, and said, ‘I never thought I’d hear that name again,” said Lankford about the initial phone call he made to the now-adult victim.

In March, Cox entered an Alford plea, admitting prosecutors had enough evidence to win a conviction against him.

“I think when the St. Louis County case just ended March 5, when the Alford plea came in, it was finally the closure for me,” said Copeland.

The two long-time detectives promised each other they would retire after solving the Housman murder. Lt. Lankford and lt. Ed Copeland will retire this year. The two credit the dozens of investigators and prosecutors who have all worked together to bring Cox to justice.

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