MANTECA (CBS13) — A Manteca youth pastor accused of being a murderer and a fugitive is breaking his silence after he was cleared of all charges against him.
Robert Cox explained to CBS13 in his own words what happened the night of the deadly encounter in Las Vegas.
“To be taken away from your family because you’re protecting them and doing what any man protector father would do—I couldn’t ever make sense of that,” he said.
For the first time, Cox is able to explain in his own words, step-by-step what happened outside a Las Vegas restaurant when he says a total stranger approached him, his wife and youth group.
“Started cussing at us and saying things like I’m going to effin kill you,” he said. “He grabbed me by the neck and punched me in the face.”
He says the man, Link Ellingson, then turned on two students who tried to stop the attack. That’s when Rob says he jumped in again and pushed Ellingson away.
“Then he fell down and hit his head on the curb,” he said.
Six months later, Ellingson would die, and nearly a year after that deadly encounter, the youth pastor would be charged with murder.
“I was dumbfounded and confused,” Cox said.
He says he’d never fought a day in his life, but was left to prepare for a fight to prove his innocence.
“I knew the truth and I knew the truth would set me free,” he said.
But the case never went far. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Cox on Friday on his 10-year wedding anniversary.
While the pastor is relieved, his heart is heavy for the Ellingson family.
There’s no celebration to be had; this is a tragic event, and my condolences to the family,” he said. “I don’t feel responsible for his life. It was his choice, his decision.”
The pastor says he hasn’t reached out to or heard from Ellingson’s family.
Ellingson’s wife says some of the things her husband was accused of saying are not in his vocabulary, and she plans to pursue a civil lawsuit.