Police Concerned Man Facing Sex Charges Was Placed on House Arrest
Police say Stephan Cox met a 14-year-old girl online, and lured her to a Columbus motel where he had sex with her.
Cox, 26, was arrested and charged, but weeks after he posted bond, he took off for Texas where police say he kidnapped another young girl.
Police and the parents of one of those girls say the system failed.
The subject of an international manhunt, Stephan Cox of Columbus was found in Mexico with 14-year-old Ruby Contreras.
"I'm sitting here thinking, 'Oh my God. There goes another 14-year-old girl that's been taken away from her family by this guy who we just arrested'," says Columbus Police Detective Ronald Grocki.
He learned of Contreras and Cox's disappearance from authorities in Texas authorities, but says he first became aware of Stephan Cox when Pennsylvania authorities called in January.
"They called and advised us that this missing 14-year-old from Pennsylvania has stolen her mom's vehicle and was heading down to Columbus to meet with Stephan Cox," he says. "We located him and we advised him of the situation. And he played like he didn't know what was going on, the whole innocent thing, 'I'll help you get her back.' And then we find out he was in a hotel with her all weekend."
Cox was charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a felony.
But after two months in the Franklin County Jail, he was granted bond and allowed out on house arrest.
"I was totally against it," says Grocki. "I mean, this guy committed a sexual crime against a minor."
Grocki believes based on the crime of which Cox was accused, he was not a good candidate for house arrest.
Judge Charles Schneider oversees the Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
He says the house arrest program is a good one.
"The most important thing I can say as a judge is, the more alternatives we have, the better we're able to do our jobs," says Schneider. "Will we get it right every time? Absolutely not. But we have a better chance of doing a better job."
Anyone under house arrest in Franklin County has their comings and goings monitored through an ankle monitor.
Police say Stephan Cox cut his monitor from his ankle before fleeing to Texas
Court officials stress the monitor is not a tracking device.
"All we know is he is away from the home on an unauthorized absence," says Schneider.
The house arrest system for municipal court, which handles lesser misdemeanor offenses, has GPS tracking.
The system for common pleas, or felony court, does not.
Schneider says part of the reason is cost.
He also points out that GPS may not have made a difference in this case.
"There was nothing we could do to prevent Mr. Cox from cutting his bracelet and leaving," Schneider says. "The only way we could have remedied that is to say, 'Mr. Cox, you're not getting a bond. You're staying in jail.' And like I said, you can't do that with every single defendant."
But that's what police, and parents of Cox's first alleged victim, say should have happened here.
"I sat in Columbus and told them exactly what was going to happen, and exactly how it would happen. And it has," says David Terrell, father of the Pennsylvania teen allegedly lured by Cox.
Her mother, Nancy Terrel says, "We tried to express that to the prosecutor and have the prosecutor express that to the judge. The judge let us down."
"I hope the higher powers look at this case and say, 'we've got to fix this'," says Grocki. "Because God forbid that another 14 year old girl is taken again by the same person."
Judge Schneider says he sympathizes with the families involved, but says he won't second-guess the judge who authorized the house arrest.
"Did the system work perfect? No. Did it have some breakdowns? Absolutely," he says, "Will we look at it and find somewhere we can fix it? Sure. But will it always work perfectly? Absolutely not."
10tv spoke to Judge Michael Holbrook by phone Tuesday.
He is the judge who released Cox on house arrest.
He says if he had continued to keep him in jail, he risked violating Cox's right to a speedy trial.
If that happened, he says, Cox might have never been prosecuted.
Cox remains jailed in Texas awaiting charges there.