A Moment for Murder


I wasn’t there, but I could have prevented a murder, if I had been. That really tears my heart out. Why would I make such an astounding statement? Read the story, then I’ll tell you why I said that.

Courtney Wilkes and her family, mom, dad, brother, and sister went for a vacation at Seagrove Beach, in Destin, Florida in 2011.

A carefree time there. Nice condo to stay in, and the weather was cooperating. They lived in Lyons, Georgia, a quiet town where people could drink their coffee at the breakfast table without having to worry about the violence of the big cities. But tragedy sometimes is transitional and doesn’t care where it lands, and this time it was Destin, Florida.

Steven Cozzie, 21, who had worked for the company that has beach chairs and umbrellas on the beach, but apparently had been fired, struck up a friendship with the Wilkes family.

According to “Passport to Murder” on ID TV, he first became friends with Courtney’s brother, and worked his way into the confidence of the entire family.

They had no idea that he was six years older than Courtney who was 15 in 2011.

Cozzie didn’t bother to tell the Wilkes family his family no longer had contact with him because he had been told to leave, and was living in a patch of woods near where he first met the Wilkes family. Why did his family do that? Because of his erratic behavior.

On the next to last day of their vacation, the Wilkes family allowed Courtney to walk down the beach with Cozzie, and that was the last time they saw Courtney alive.

Cozzie led Courtney into an area of trees and undergrowth and killed her, brutally, with a heavy log. Then he raped her after she was dead, post-mortem as authorities say.

The Wilkes family became frantic after Courtney did not return and called the police. The police and the Wilkes family, particularly the father, started a search for her.

In the meantime Cozzie, according to the TV program, took a good friend to show him the body of Courtney. The friend, as soon as he extricated himself from the scene, called the police.

Cozzie was arrested, but claimed his friend was the one who forced him to kill Courtney. That didn’t work. A witness had seen Cozzie and Courtney only walking toward the forested area where Courtney’s body was found. Also Cozzie’s DNA was found on Courtney’s body.

Cozzie was convicted of the murder in 2013, and sits on Florida’s death row. Let’s hope the appeals process is not long-lived, and that he will eventually pay the ultimate for his crime.  That never brings the victim back, does it?

Why would I say I could have prevented the murder? Investigative writers such as I am, and there are many of us, perhaps have one difference from everybody else walking around—we are persistent, really persistent. There are at least ten techniques we use when we talk to people, some we have used so long other people don’t even know we are applying them.

Three or four of these techniques everybody uses when they talk to people, and some even go a step further and use a couple more. It’s that last four that separate us from the mainstream, because they are techniques customized to our questioning ability, techniques that we have developed over the years by trial and error. The techniques just didn’t come into being one day. We labored long and hard to make sure they work.

Had I been able to talk to Cozzie for five minutes before the family became greatly involved with him, I could have told them that he was a sadistic, cold-blooded, sociopathic, psychopath, and they should distance themselves from him as soon as possible, even calling the police to do so if necessary.

Courtney’s murder would have never taken place, and the family would have believed I didn’t know what I was talking about, until Cozzie killed some other young girl, and they found this out long after they had returned to their safe haven in Georgia.

I’m sure you’re sitting there saying there is no way, anybody, me specifically, could do that. Maybe you would like to try me.

The four customized techniques encompass more than just questions, maybe more so the overall, comprehensive situation to where when I ask the right question at the right time on the right stage, the entire atmosphere becomes a portion of the answer. I won’t be more specific than that. If you care to, you can spend long hours developing your own techniques.

Was Steven Cozzie’s family at fault for not reporting him to the authorities because of his erratic behavior once he was gone from their home? I think so. I’m not sure how much the authorities could have done, but at least the family of Steven Cozzie would have made an attempt to prevent the murder of Courtney Wilkes. which I’m certain they had no idea would happen.

Should the Wilkes family not have allowed an innocent 15-year old to walk down the beach with Cozzie? They knew he was older, maybe not 21, but too old for Courtney. Certainly they should not have done that. I’m sure in retrospect, they have regretted it every moment of the days since 2011, and several times in that same moment to regret it over and over.  And at night when they can not sleep. Their torture is permanent. There’s no changing that. But how many families would have done the same thing? Destin. Florida and murder are not two entities you associate with in the same breath.

I know in reality I couldn’t have done anything, considering the fact I wasn’t there. But when God gave me the ability to be an investigative writer, it still weighs on my conscience, and I don’t sleep too well at night myself.

Just a moment for Courtney and Cozzie to walk down the beach, and a forever tragedy.

1 comment

  • I knew him for a while. It took more than five minutes to realize he was a freak unfortunately. It didn’t take long but I thought he was cool at first. I would say it took me a couple of days actually to see how he interacted only with girls who were around the age of twelve. He had outbursts randomly. He would wait outside for kids to get out of school. That type of thing