Still No Answers in the Death of Two Murdered Houston Women

by Dianna Wray for Houston Press The bodies were impossible to miss. They were the first thing th...

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by Dianna Wray for Houston Press

The bodies were impossible to miss. They were the first thing the beer-truck delivery man saw when he stepped out to haul the trash to the dumpster behind the little convenience store on Bolivar Point on Friday morning, March 7, 2014. They'd been left in a messy pile and could almost be mistaken for stacked mannequins if it weren't for the trail of blood dribbling toward the street.

One was dressed in men's clothing and work boots and was lying face-down on the pavement. Her head was swaddled in a reddish-brown plaid sheet that covered her face entirely and caught most of the blood. She was small-framed and only about five feet tall, and at first detectives mistook her for a teenage boy because of her clothes. She'd been beaten to death, with the killing blows administered to her head. A young black woman was piled on top of her, their legs tangled. Pretty with a triangle of a face composed of high cheekbones and a small rosebud mouth, the woman was even shorter, with long, dark hair. Her large brown eyes were wide open and blank, her mouth shaped in an almost-perfect circle of surprise. A quarter-size gunshot wound marked her right temple.

Bolivar Peninsula is a narrow, scrubby strip of land covered in sand dunes, marshes and a few palm trees. Nestled just a 20-minute ferry ride from Galveston, the area is forgotten by most people most of the time, and it's a place others think of when they've got something to hide. Fisherman's Cove sits about a mile away from the ferry dock. There's an abandoned, boarded-up motel behind the store and a marshy tract of land a short walk across the road, with surveillance cameras on the front of the store but none in back.

Called to the scene, Capt. Barry Cook, commander of the Galveston County Sheriff's office's criminal investigation unit, couldn't help wondering why the person dumping the bodies had left them outside a dumpster where they would surely be discovered. Investigators found papers on the ground nearby, and the government documents gave them the name of one of the victims. There was also a white and green blood-spattered window shutter propped up against the motel, about 20 feet from the dumpster.

Cook has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years. He's a bluff man with a friendly smile that makes him seem approachable even with his bristly crew cut and the holstered gun and handcuffs that he carries. "It was a strange crime scene," he says now. "The debris found there was unusually placed, the positions and locations of the bodies. There was really no rhyme or reason why they were left in such a public, easily found location. It was almost like whoever did it wanted them to be found and wanted us to know they weren't killed there. There were probably a million places you could have hidden those bodies."

Within a few hours, investigators identified the victims as Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24 years old and from Houston. Crystal had been choked, but ultimately was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head. Britney died from severe head trauma, but the beating that killed her also broke her neck. "Crystal was just shot as if she got in the way, but it was obvious to us that Britney was the victim of a brutal attack. We felt it had to be somebody that was close to her and had emotions," Cook says. "She took a very serious beating, mainly about the head. It was vicious."

Crystal's family last saw her on Wednesday night, and no one had heard from either Britney or Crystal since early Thursday morning. Police had no idea how the two women had ended up in Bolivar. Britney and Crystal had been dating for about two years, and once the story broke that a lesbian couple had been found dead, it almost instantly became national news.

The details that came out in the following days were both provocative and generic. The story was picked up everywhere -- it ran on the Associated Press wire, and there were stories in the New York Daily News and the Daily Mail and on The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Gawker. Accounts provided breathless coverage about the pair. When a family member was arrested in connection with the deaths, Ebony magazine published an essay calling for more tolerance in the African-American community toward LGBT people. Gay-rights groups held candlelight vigils for the couple and followed every detail as the investigation moved forward.

And then it all stopped. More than 40 weeks later, no one has been charged with the murders. Bill Reed, the felony prosecutor for the Galveston County District Attorney's Office, says that investigators are still waiting on some scientific evidence. He says there's no statute of limitations with murder charges and that he prefers not to make any further comment on the case while it's still under investigation.

James Larry Cosby, 47, Britney's father, remains in jail charged with two felony counts for tampering with evidence -- investigators say he moved both women's bodies. Larry, as he is known by his family, has been in jail since March 2014 in lieu of paying a $500,000 bond. While he's awaiting his trial date, February 15, he isn't allowed to talk with members of the media because of a court order issued by Judge Bret Griffin at the request of Larry's court-appointed lawyer, Greg Russell. Russell says he prefers not to discuss the case while it is pending. Letters to Larry requesting comment have received no reply.

Shortly after Larry's arrest, Crystal's father, the Reverend Ivan Jackson, stood in front of a clutch of reporters gathered outside his house on the south side of Houston. He shook his head and his rich preacher's voice turned gravelly as he spoke about the murders. "I did not agree with her sexual orientation either, but I would not kill my daughter and Britney and then take them to Galveston and hide it. I love all my children the same," he said.

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