COUNCIL BLUFFS — Darwin Cox faces 25 years in prison for the death of his wife.
Cox, 55, pleaded guilty in district court Thursday to three charges as part of a deal with the Pottawattamie County Attorney's Office.
Cox shot his wife, Millisa, on Oct. 15 as she ran out of their home at 3441 Ave. B after an argument that began the night before. From inside the home, Darwin Cox fired a handgun through a window, striking his wife.
He attempted suicide shortly thereafter, shooting himself in the head, and spent time in the hospital before being transferred to the Pottawattamie County Jail.
Darwin Cox was initially charged with first-degree murder. In court, he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, intimidation with a dangerous weapon with intent and going armed with intent.
The first two charges each carry a 10-year maximum sentence. The third charge carries a five-year sentence. The intimidation charge includes a weapons enhancement that requires Cox to serve at least five years of the sentence.
The prison sentences will be served consecutively as part of the plea deal. Cox and his attorney, public defender Mike Williams of Sioux City, agreed to the terms when read aloud Thursday by District Judge Kathleen Kilnoski, who accepted the plea and sentenced Cox.
Williams left the courthouse quickly and was unavailable for comment throughout the day.
“A sad case,” Jon Jacobmeier of the County Attorney's Office said afterward.
Jacobmeier said the violent history of the relationship between Darwin and Millisa Cox played a part in the agreement.
“There was equal aggression on both sides,” he said.
Before the mid-October incident, Darwin Cox had at least three other domestic assault arrests and two assault arrests in Pottawattamie County — from 1996 to the present — all of which were dismissed in court. Millisa Cox also had at least one domestic assault arrest, for a 2010 incident, that was also dismissed.
On Oct. 14 and 15, the couple were heard shouting and fighting, while their 16-year-old son, Morgan Cox, and two friends tried to keep the peace. Eventually, Millisa Cox allegedly threw a pair of scissors at her husband, which briefly stuck in his skin before falling out. She then attacked Darwin Cox further before the fight was broken up.
The three teenagers were able to calm things down at the house, and the five sat and talked well into the night. But things took a turn for the worse the next morning. Jacobmeier said Darwin Cox took a “one in a million” shot when he fired through the window and hit his wife.
“There's no disagreement over what happened, no dispute on volatility of the relationship,” Jacobmeier said. “We looked at the totality of the circumstances, his age; we thought 25 years would be a fair sentence.”
Cox had been set to go to trial Feb. 18.
Jacobmeier said Morgan Cox will live with his half sister, Millisa Cox's daughter. Darwin Cox was ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to the family.