Cox also charged with murder of unborn baby in Stonecrest slaying

Search warrants paint grim picture, say suspect admitted to stabbing pregnant boss

by Mike Parks

Prosecutors are charging Mark Anthony Cox with two counts of murder for the slaying of a pregnant woman Jan. 13 at the Stonecrest shopping center in south Charlotte.

Meanwhile, police search warrants released Monday, Jan. 23, indicate that a miscommunication between a 911 dispatcher and Danielle Watson’s fiancé came at least an hour after the woman’s alleged killer had already fled the scene.

Police released copies of a search warrant Monday, Jan. 23, in which authorities say Cox’s sister Chelsea told them her 22-year-old brother admitted to stabbing Watson to death and dumping her body behind a trash bin at the shopping center. Police say they found blood all over Cox’s home when they arrived Saturday sometime after 5:21 p.m. – when the search warrant was issued – as well as a large butcher knife resting in a mug on the kitchen counter, according to the warrant. They also found blood at the Flying Biscuit, where money was missing from the restaurant’s safe.

The warrant helps define a timeline of events in the south Charlotte murder, and answers what’s been a troubling question in the mind of Watson’s fiancé, Keith Smith.

Smith told police Watson had called him from work around 10:15 p.m. Friday night, but before they could talk Smith heard a commotion over the phone and was abruptly hung up on. Smith called and texted Watson for the next two hours asking if she was OK, but by midnight hadn’t heard back. He called police at 12:15 a.m., telling a dispatcher he thought a robbery was taking place at Flying Biscuit, where Watson was manager. But an error by the dispatcher sent police looking for the Plum Biscuits, a restaurant that didn’t exist, and authorities never arrived at the restaurant until they responded to a larceny call Saturday morning, finding Watson’s body a short distance away.

In the 911 call, Smith clearly says the robbery is occurring at the Flying Biscuit, but what address he gives isn’t exactly clear – either 3930 Rea Road, or the restaurant’s actual address, 7930 Rea Road. Police went to 3930 Rea Road – a private home – and after finding nothing there, searched the nearby area for Plum Biscuits. Smith said no one from the department called him after police couldn’t find the “Plum Biscuits” early Saturday morning, and no one has called him from the department since to discuss the mistake.

The dispatcher who took the call was put on administrative leave while police looked into their policies on handling 911 calls. Police did not respond to a reporter’s call asking if the dispatcher was still on leave prior to South Charlotte Weekly’s press deadline.

In the days after her death, Smith had to keep telling himself the miscommunication between himself and the dispatcher hadn’t contributed to Watson’s murder, he told South Charlotte Weekly last week. And, even if police had arrived at the Flying Biscuit shortly after midnight, he believed they likely couldn’t have saved his fiancée. Now, statements in the search warrant indicate Watson was dead long before Smith called 911.

In the warrant, Chelsea Cox told police she arrived at her home at 5017 Blockhouse Court around 10:50 p.m. that night and was quickly called by her brother, who asked her to open the door. Mark Cox, who also lived at the home, then told his sister he had stabbed Watson multiple times during an argument, police quote Chelsea Cox as saying. She then told police she also had found her brother’s work uniform soaked in blood and hidden in a trash bag in her closet, according to the warrant.

After leaving the home, Cox traveled to the home of Colin Bramlett, a co-worker at the Flying Biscuit, according to the warrant. Bramlett told police Cox arrived at 11 p.m. with a stack of money in his lap, driving what Bramlett later identified as Watson’s car. Smith didn’t call 911 until more than an hour later.

Police didn’t arrive at the Flying Biscuit until around 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning, responding to a larceny call. An employee had found the business unlocked when he arrived to open, then noticed money was missing from the safe. It wasn’t until almost 9 a.m. when Watson’s body was found behind a trash bin by a sanitation worker.

Cox was arrested Jan. 16 without incident at the home of an acquaintance in Fayetteville. The search warrant does not indicate if Cox’s sister told police Saturday where her brother was heading.

Cox will soon be indicted on two counts of murder – one for Watson and one for her unborn child. This is the first time the new Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which protects unborn children, has been used in a homicide case, prosecutors say. Smith said he’s happy prosecutors decided to go after both counts of murder in an e-mail to South Charlotte Weekly, saying prosecutors had reached out to him about their decision.

Within the next 45 days of the indictment, prosecutors must inform a Mecklenburg County judge if they intend to go after the death penalty in this case. A prosecutor said it was too early to discuss the issue when reached by a South Charlotte Weekly reporter Monday, Jan. 23.

Cox is being held in the Mecklenburg County Jail., South Charlotte Weekly’s news partner, contributed to this report.

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