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Cold Case: 20 years later, DNA evidence ties man to rape of Fair Oaks teen

forensics lab
File photo, forensics lab. // Public domain

Note: although The Sentinel typically does not cover crimes outside of Citrus Heights, exceptions are made if the crime is largely under reported in regional media and occurred in close proximity to Citrus Heights. The role of DNA evidence in this cold case also played an issue in our decision to cover this crime. Reader discretion is advised due to the nature of the crimes.

Two decades after a masked man entered a Fair Oaks home, tied up a mother and her two daughters at gunpoint and raped one of them, a 35-year-old man has plead guilty to the 1997 crime. Though unidentified for nearly 20 years, advancements in DNA technology later connected Joseph Brian Cox to a cigarette butt and a roll of tape found at the scene, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

In a March 15 news release, the district attorney’s office said Cox plead guilty to three counts of “forcible digital penetration” and two counts of “forcible rape.” Cox, now 35, was a juvenile when he committed the crimes.

On the morning of May 20, 1997, authorities said Cox unlawfully entered the home of the 14-year-old victim involved, wearing a mask and holding the family at gunpoint.

“He proceeded to bind the hands and feet of the victim’s mother and sister with rope and tape,” the news release said. “He also bound the victim’s hands before forcibly sexually assaulting her in her bedroom.”

Before fleeing the scene, authorities said Cox smoked a cigarette in the victim’s room and looted the house for cash and valuables.

As DNA testing of items from the scene initially did not yield “significant results,” the investigation stalled and was assigned to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Cold Case Unit, the DA’s statement said. As technology advanced, the items were submitted to the DA’s crime lab for testing and resulted in “a hit” to Cox.

Tape used to tie up the family members contained key DNA evidence, as well as the cigarette butt found at the scene.

According to online inmate records, Cox was booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail on Jan. 6, 2015. His sentencing date is set for April 28, 2017, where he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, according to the district attorney’s office.

DA Spokeswoman Shelly Orio later confirmed with The Sentinel that the crime occurred in Fair Oaks, but she was not able to verify what city Cox was a resident of in 1997, or more recently.

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