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Utah State Prison

Former Utah officer seeks parole after 16 years in prison

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Posted - Nov. 12, 2019 at 11:30 a.m.

UTAH STATE PRISON — A former West Valley police officer who has served 16 years in prison for child sex abuse is seeking parole.

Robert Ellis Cox was convicted in 2003 of four counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child, four counts of sodomy on a child, and rape of a child. He was sentenced to up to life in prison.

Cox was a West Valley City police officer from November 1990 to March 1994. The abuse happened in the mid-1990s after Cox was no longer an officer. He was charged in 2001 and arrested in late 2002 in Willard River, Minnesota, after his story was profiled on “America’s Most Wanted.”

On Nov. 5, Cox, who will turn 60 in December, went before a member of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

The hearing was conducted by board member Denise Porter, who started by asking Cox to talk about his crime, something that is common at all parole hearings.

But Cox initially declined to talk about what he had done in public, saying it was out of respect for his victim.

“The victim is behind me, and I’m assuming there are victims behind me. Both the victim and secondary victims,” he said in a recording of the hearing as he sat with his back to the audience. “They’ve had 16 years to heal, and I don’t want to reopen any more wounds that have already been caused.”

But the victim’s mother told KSL she was not at the hearing nor notified it was even happening.

Porter reminded Cox that the reason inmates are asked to talk about their crimes is so the board can determine if they have accepted responsibility, what they are accepting responsibility for, and if they are amenable to treatment.

“This is your parole board hearing. Part of what we’re doing is discussing the offenses and talk about the potential treatment. It is an open and public hearing. It is not something that we’re doing behind closed doors. And so I’m going to ask again for you to have that discussion with me. It’s not particularly optional, sir,” she told Cox.

I was stupid. I made some mistakes. I take full responsibility for the mistakes that I have made, the choices that I made.

–Robert Cox

Cox said he understood, and at that point talked briefly about his crime, saying he was overwhelmed with guilt, sorrow and shame.

“I was stupid. I made some mistakes. I take full responsibility for the mistakes that I have made, the choices that I made,” he said. “I took liberties I shouldn’t have taken at that time. And for that, I’m truly sorry.”

Cox pointed out to the board that he has not had any discipline issues while incarcerated and believes he is ready to be released.

“I’ve demonstrated over 16 years that I know how to follow the rules. I have no major write-ups, I’ve been model inmate,” he said.

Porter said she would order that Cox first be assessed to determine what kind of sex offender treatment he should receive and if he is likely to reoffend before she makes her decision. She said if she does recommend that Cox be released, it will be to a halfway house first.

The full five-member board will now vote on whether to grant parole.

Correction: The story originally stated the victim and her family attended the parole hearing. The victim’s mother says they were not there.

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