Suspect Arrested in Cold Murder and Rape Cases From 30-Plus Years Ago

Cold case arrest
Thomas D. Cox was extradited from Colorado to Arizona and charged with murder, sexual assault, kidnapping and burglary, authorities said.Handout

Thomas D. Cox has been charged with murder and sexual assault in two Arizona cold cases, authorities said.

A suspect has been arrested in a cold case murder and a separate rape case that both date back more than 30 years and occurred in the same apartment complex, Arizona authorities said.

Thomas D. Cox, 58, was extradited from Colorado to Arizona over the weekend. He has been charged with 16 felonies, including murder, sexual assault, kidnapping and burglary, according to online records. He is being held in lieu of $1 million cash bail and has an arraignment scheduled for May 5, according to records.

Cox was arrested at his Colorado Springs home after enhanced fingerprint and DNA analysis linked him to both crime scenes, authorities said. Arizona detectives matched genetic information and fingerprints to evidence collected by Colorado authorities after Cox was recently arrested there on an unrelated, misdemeanor offense, authorities said.

"We just constantly look for stuff. When there’s new technology or new techniques on how to identify a suspect or examine evidence we buy into that, and we re-examine the evidence as the years go on and in this particular case it worked out dramatically," Mesa Police Department Sgt. Chuck Trapani told KSAZ-TV.

In 1989, 22-year-old Susan Amy Morse was found dead in her apartment near Country Club Drive and Southern Avenue, police said. Morse lived alone and there was no sign of forced entry, according to authorities said. Her cause of death was strangulation, according to an autopsy.

She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and left in her bed with the covers pulled up around her, police said. Her parents had asked for a welfare check after she failed to show up for work.

One year later, another woman was attacked at the same apartment complex. The 23-year-old woman in that case survived, after being sexually assaulted. Her attacker stole cash and a VCR before leaving, police said.

She told police a man crawled through her window, held a knife to her stomach and told her he was going to rape her. She survived the attack.

Both cases went cold despite the best efforts of investigators, police said. Morse's parents have since died, but police were able to locate other relatives to tell them of the arrest. The rape survivor was also notified. "She is still alive and from what the detective told me, she is so happy that we possibly caught the suspect," Trapani said.

“This case exemplifies that the passage of time does not deter law enforcement’s persistence for truth and justice,” the FBI said in a statement. The agency had been helping Mesa police investigate both cases. 

"The results of this cooperative effort will provide the victims and their families the long-awaited justice they deserve," the statement said.

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