Family seeks answers in Cosby murder

Published 4:04 pm Saturday, May 18, 2024

By Lanell Downs Smith 

Earl Cosby of Rutledge was shot and killed on June 13, 2016. Nearly eight years later, the murder remains unsolved, with all potential leads ending in dead ends. 

Crenshaw Sheriff’s Chief Investigator Chris Stewart is lead on the investigation, having assumed the responsibility from investigators under the administration of former Sheriff Mickey Powell.

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“I’ve followed up with notes that previous investigators put into the case files,” Steward said. “There are several boxes of notes and evidence. So far, it’s all run down the same paths earlier investigators went down. Sheriff Mears stays on top of this. He talks to people as he is out in the county, then call me to take a statement from them. But so far, nothing can really tie anyone to [the murder].”

The Cosby family and friends — his son Brent, wife Judith, Rutledge Mayor Steve Phillips —  continue asking questions and seeking answers they hope will lead to justice for his as-yet-unidentified murderer.

The story of Earl’s murder has been covered by local, state and national media outlets. Still, investigators with the Sheriff’s Office, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) and the District Attorney’s (DA) office have no answers to the Cosby family’s two main questions, “Who?” and “Why?”

A statement issued by Sheriff Terry Mears confirms the office’s commitment to continue searching for answers.

“As we mark another year since the tragic loss of Mr. Earl Cosby on June 13. 2016, we, the Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office, stand in solidarity with each of you in our shared pursuit of justice and healing.

“The passing of Mr. Cosby remains a solemn reminder of the fragility of life and the enduring impact of senseless violence on our community. Since that fateful day, our dedicated team of investigators has remained steadfast in our commitment to uncovering the truth and bringing those responsible to account.”

Brent and Judith describe feeling frustrated after all the years which have brought them no closer to justice for Earl, with a killer still at large.

“I don’t want this to happen to somebody else,” Brent said. “I know what other people experience when they have trauma and what they go through when they have unanswered questions. At least I know my dad died and where he died. I just don’t know who [killed him]. I no longer wake up screaming at 2 a.m. but there is still the feeling of loss and emptiness when you go to call someone who is no longer there.”

Earl’s family has done their own investigating, canvassing Rutledge neighbors and asking for information from anyone who may have seen or heard something on the day of his murder. They feel his killer must be someone he knew but as yet no information has surfaced to tie the crime to the killer.

Brent and Judith discovered Earl’s body in the Rutledge office from which he operated a used car lot. They have retained evidence left at the scene — like the blood soaked carpet — and leave the office locked and untouched in hopes investigators may yet discover evidence leading to the arrest of Earl’s killer.

The Cosbys and others, like Phillips, believe there are holes in the investigation launched by then-Sheriff Powell. They check in, with DA Charlotte Tesmer, Mears, lead investigator Chris Stewart and agents with SBI, hoping new leads will close what they fear has become an unsolvable cold case.

“This is a defense lawyer’s dream case,” Brent said. “There could have been hair follicles in that carpet, but they didn’t take it. I’ve got it rolled up in 50-gallon bags in case anybody ever wants to come out and get it.”

The Cosbys maintain Earl’s house, the home where he grew up, and a constant reminder of his absence. They say the case feels somewhat forgotten and make contact with law enforcement agencies to ensure no one forgets to keep asking questions.

“We have been interviewed by Fox News, The Montgomery Advertiser and,” Phillips said. “I found a story in Kentucky and there is a production company interested in making a movie. We’ve been in touch with SBI twice and the Attorney General’s office.”

“It feels like a forgotten case,” Brent said. “It feels like we get forgotten because there’s so many other things that are precedent, but I don’t want him to be forgotten. I want his case to be as active as the others.”

Brent said he is grateful for Phillips, who keeps the case at the forefront of the community’s awareness. He continues working leads too, hopeful one will eventually bring justice for his family.

“It’ll consume you,” Brent reflected. “I wake up in the middle of the night and get in my office. I start writing things down and it consumes me. I had to take a break for a while.”

Stewart said there is a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer.

To report information related to the case, contact any one of the following agencies.

Call Central Alabama Crime Stoppers at (334) 215-7867 or visit Call the Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office at (334) 335-4850 or the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (334) 263-1691.

Photos by Lanell Smith