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The Augusta Chronicle
By Stephanie Broadbent| Morris News Service
Saturday, March 02, 2002
RIDGELAND: A doctor’s wife accused of killing her husband inside their plantation home and spending several days alone with his body is better now and should be released from custody until trial, her attorney said Wednesday.
Jacqueline Cox, 54, stopped taking her anti-depressant pills shortly before killing her husband, Dr. Emmett “Sonny” Cox, in what she had planned as a murder-suicide, defense attorney David Bruck told a judge.
“Her medication ran out about two weeks before this happened,” he said. “If she’d had the kind of care she’s had since then, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Jacqueline Cox was arrested Sept. 22, 2000, five days after her husband, 54, was last seen alive. He was found inside the bedroom of their home in Colleton River Plantation in Bluffton, shot in his chest, leg, arm and finger. He’d apparently been dead several days.
Jacqueline Cox had superficial cuts on her wrists and was sent to a state hospital for a six-week evaluation. She was also charged with murder.
Since then she’s spent a short time in jail, six months in a prison hospital and for the last 11 months a private hospital in Columbia, getting psychiatric help, Bruck said.
She stood quietly with a cream sweater tied around her neck over a long brown dress, flanked by two psychiatrists as she faced Judge Jackson Gregory at the Jasper County Courthouse. Although the shooting happened in Beaufort County, she appeared in Ridgeland because that’s where the judge is holding court this week.
Bruck said Jacqueline Cox was suffering from depression when she killed her husband, who was also her doctor and wrote her prescriptions. Now, she’s back on medication and doing well, he said.
One of her psychiatrists, Dr. Donna Schwartz-Watts of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, said she talked to Jacqueline Cox over the phone for three hours while Cox was still in the house with her husband’s body.
Her attorney had arranged the call because Jacqueline Cox seemed suicidal and the psychiatrist helped arrange her surrender to Beaufort County deputies.
Since then, Schwartz-Watts has helped arranged the woman’s medical care and stayed involved in the case.
“She’s a much different person (now),” Schwartz-Watts told the judge. “In my opinion, she’s not a risk to herself or others.”
Another psychiatrist, Dr. Timothy Malone, agreed and said that Jacqueline Cox doesn’t need constant care now. She’s been his patient at Baptist Hospital in Columbia for 11 months and is much improved, he said.
Bruck said his client has not received bond because she was deemed suicidal but now that she’s not a threat to herself, he asked that bond be set. He told Gregory that if Jacqueline Cox was released on bond, she would get an apartment in Columbia and continue to be an outpatient at Baptist Hospital, meeting with her counselors every day.
He said that she would be monitored daily, would even agree to electronic monitoring and that all those involved in her care could be put under court order to report any mental problems.
But Solicitor Randolph Murdaugh opposed bond, saying that Jacqueline Cox would be a flight risk, with plenty of money but almost no family. And if she stopped taking her medication, she could kill again, he said.
Emmett Cox’s sister, Mary Cox Rohrig, said that Jacqueline Cox’s lifestyle before her incarceration was so different from imprisonment that she believes the woman would flee.
“This was supposed to be a murder-suicide but she didn’t hurt herself … She was a threat to Sonny, not herself,” Rohrig said. “Her instinct for self-preservation was stronger than her depression. I believe her instinct for self-preservation would be stronger than any court order.”
Gregory agreed that Cox shouldn’t be released, saying he was worried about her being in a strange city on her own with no family to make sure she takes her medication.
He also said that she’s better off than most inmates because she can afford a private hospital while awaiting trial instead of passing her days at a county jail.
He denied bond but urged the solicitor and defense attorney to set a trial date. Bruck, a Columbia attorney who also represented murderous mother Susan Smith, said he wouldn’t be available to try the case until late May.
The trial was tentatively set for June 25 at the Beaufort County Courthouse.
Reporter Stephanie Broadbent can be reached at 837-5255, ext. 110, or at stephanie @ lowcountrynow.com