An outspoken Marine is found murdered.
Skeleton was discovered 5 miles away
Audiences lined up to see Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise in the hit movie, “A Few Good Men”. But not many were aware that it was based on a true story, one that may have led to the murder of a courageous former Marine.
David Cox joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school and was stationed at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. One day, while on duty, David became aware of a problem. Another platoon member, PFC William Alvarado, had written to his senator complaining about Marine misconduct.
David’s former squad leader, Christopher Valdez, explains how Alvarado was targeted for a “Code Red,” or hazing:
“We didn't actually decide to have a Code Red for Alvarado on our own. Our platoon commander had given us an implied order that if we were good Marines, something should happen. Saturday night we went into Alvarado's room. We blindfolded him and gagged him and then dragged him off of his bed. Dave (Cox) started shaving his head, and within five minutes, he had stopped struggling.”
David Cox convinced his platoon to stop the hazing. When they removed the gag and untied Alvarado, he was unconsciousness.
Alvarado was rushed to the hospital. He recovered, but his 10 attackers, including David Cox, were brought up on charges. Cox was going to be charged with attempted murder. But he said he was just following orders.
Don Marcari was appointed to defend David Cox:
“I told David, that this was a defense – obedience to orders - that had not been successful at Nuremberg, had not been successful for Lt. Calley at My Lai. And plus, we had a colonel denying he ever gave an order.”
David claimed the Code Red started with implied orders from his superior officers.
For Don Marcari, that meant an even more uphill battle loomed:
“We had the additional burden of now saying he was following an implied order. And it was a very difficult case to win, and I told David that. He decided he wanted to fight it because he believed in his heart that he didn't do anything wrong. “
At his trial, David was convicted of simple assault. He was sentenced to time already served in the brig. He then completed his duty and received an honorable discharge. He returned to civilian life in his hometown near Boston.
Years later, “A Few Good Men” was released. David felt that the filmmakers had stolen his story. David Cox’s girlfriend, Elaine Tinsley, recalls at the time:
“He was stunned. Here was this movie company that was making tons of money off of his story, and if it weren't for him, the story never would have existed in the first place.”
David and some of the other Marines involved in the Code Red, sued the movie production company. While they waited for a ruling, David spoke out about his case on radio talk shows.
By January 1994, David was living with Elaine and hoping his temporary job with UPS would become permanent. The night before he was supposed to get the good news, David’s back was giving him trouble, so he spent the night on the couch. The next morning, Elaine left at about 8:30, and then called home at about noon. David didn't answer, but there was a message for him on the machine: UPS wanted to hire him. Elaine was happy David would be getting his wish:
“I was like, cool, Dave's gonna get this job and he's gonna be so excited. Then I called back again at 1:00 to check the messages, and that message was still there, and the UPS guy had called again, too.”
At 5:30 pm, Elaine returned home:
“When I came into the house that night after work, I realized right away that the doors to all the rooms were open, and our rabbit, who we usually just kept in the kitchen, was hopping all over the place.”
David's truck was still in the driveway, with the keys in the ignition. His un-cashed paycheck was on the dashboard and his 9-millimeter gun was in the glove box. But David was gone. Elaine didn’t know what to make of the situation:
“As the days went on and there was no news from him-- we checked his bank account. There was no activity on his bank account. You start to believe that, you know, maybe something did happen, but why?”
The answer came with the spring thaw. The body of David Cox was discovered on the banks of a river in Medfield, Massachusetts, about five miles from his apartment.
Sgt. Kevin Shea of Massachusetts State Police, describes the manner of death:
“He was shot, according to the ME, four times-- once at the base of the rear of the neck and three times in the left side torso area.”
It was clear that robbery was not the motive. David’s cash and his credit cards were still in his wallet. And police ruled out a random attack.
Sgt. Shea believes David left home with someone he knew:
“It's our belief that he got in the car willingly, that he knew who was coming to pick him up, and that he went to this area and walked into the woods with this person. I think that if it was somebody that was just holding a gun on him or something like that, that they would do it within the first 30 or 40 yards into the woods. David was found almost three-quarters-to-a-mile walk into the woods.”
David’s attorney, Donald Marcari, thinks the murder was somehow related to the military:
“I don't know why David was killed. I personally believe it had something to do with the military. He was taken out of his house without signs of struggle, he was wearing his Marine Corps jacket, which he never wore. He was found between two hunting ranges where gunshots would not be unusual, and he was murdered execution style.”
But what was the motive?
After the release of “A Few Good Men,” David gave an interview on the radio. He was quite vocal about his story and the U.S. activities in Cuba. David’s mother worried that he had been too outspoken:
“After I heard that interview on the radio, I spoke to him, and I said, ‘I don't like what you're doing. I think what you're doing is dangerous’ I think he felt far too free to just speak his mind.”
David's brother, Steve, had a different theory suggesting another possible scenario. He thought that perhaps the murder was connected to David’s job at UPS:
“A couple of months before Dave disappeared, he'd mentioned to me that he had come upon a supervisor and one of the drivers involved in some type of activity, what he believed to be was theft.”
According to Sgt. Kevin Shea, nothing has been ruled out and the investigation is still open:
“It'll remain open until we solve it. Again, we'll follow any leads that come through vigorously, and do that until it is solved.”