A Tallahatchie County businessman was killed Monday night, Oct. 26, in an attempted armed robbery staged through a bogus car sale ad on social media, according to law enforcement.
The incident occurred after 8 in the city of Houston, in Chickasaw County.
Houston Police Chief Billy Voyles on Tuesday identified the victim as Rob Cox, 40, of near Charleston.
Voyles said Cox was shot with a 9 mm pistol. He was transported by ambulance to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, where he died a short time later, the chief added.
Cox, co-owner of B&C Construction and operator of the Paynes Water Association, had traveled to Houston with his 22-year-old stepdaughter on the presumption that she would be buying a used car at the residence of a private seller there, Voyles said.
Houston Police Department Investigator Aleicia Jennings, who is working the case, said Cox and his stepdaughter were responding to an advertisement that had been posted on Facebook Marketplace, an online site operated by the social media giant. Through Marketplace, users can arrange to buy, sell and trade items with others.
Jennings said this particular post featured the photo and description of a 2012 Nissan Maxima SE sedan offered for sale for $6,300. She said authorities have a screenshot of the digital ad, which has since been taken down.
Voyles said the stepdaughter, whose name was not released, had “several” online conversations with the purported seller over the course of a week.
An in-person meeting was arranged for Monday night, and Cox and his stepdaughter drove to an address in a residential area of Martin Luther King Drive, on the south side of Houston, for their appointment with the supposed seller.
When the pair arrived at the address, they saw what appeared to be the advertised car, parked in the driveway of a house, noted Jennings. What they did not know was that the residence was unoccupied, vacant.
When Cox and his stepdaughter exited their vehicle, “A guy came from the back of the house,” noted Jennings, relaying an account given by the stepdaughter.
“She stated that he had his hands in his pants, and when he pulled his hands out he had a gun,” Jennings said. “He pointed to [Cox and the stepdaughter] and told them to give them the money. At that time, [the stepdaughter] said she just threw the money at him and put her hands up.”
Jennings said two other men — the stepdaughter later identified all three as “tall and slender” African Americans — also came from the rear of the house, one brandishing a bat.
She explained that an altercation ensued and the situation soon turned tragic.
“[Cox] had the gun pointed at him, and he pushed the gun out of his face ... and the other guy hit him with the bat,” Jennings said. “That’s when everything went south.”
Shots rang out and the stepdaughter fled the scene on foot, reportedly firing at least one round at the ambushers from a handgun she had on her for personal protection, said Voyles. He said Cox’s stepdaughter told officials that gunshots were fired at her as she ran away.
A “total of six” shell casings were recovered from the scene, Jennings noted.
The stepdaughter, shaken but reportedly unharmed, returned to the site when police arrived, Voyles explained.
The chief said officials were able to speak with Cox as he lay in the street, before the ambulance arrived.
While robbery was the motive, Jennings said the assailants left empty-handed.
“They didn’t even get the money that she threw at them,” the investigator noted. “I guess everything happened so quick they weren’t thinking, and they didn’t get the money.”
While Jennings said Tuesday afternoon that officials “have some possible suspects” in the case, she added that they also are working on tracking down information about the origin of the car ad posted on Marketplace.
“I have contacted a couple of FBI agents and we are in the process of doing that now,” she noted.
The Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are assisting the investigation, Voyles explained.