Suspect in decades-old Mesa murder, sex assault cold cases arrested in Colorado

Apr 27, 2022, 4:25 AM
Thomas D. Cox (Mesa Police Department Photo)...
Thomas D. Cox (Mesa Police Department Photo)
(Mesa Police Department Photo)

PHOENIX — A man accused of murder and sexual assaults in Mesa has been arrested more than 30 years after the crimes were committed as advanced DNA technologies and other investigative techniques helped close the cold cases, authorities said Tuesday.

Thomas D. Cox, 58, was taken into custody in Colorado and transferred back to Arizona after being identified as a suspect in the murder of 22-year-old Susan Amy Morse in October 1989 and the sexual assault of another 23-year-old woman in November 1990, the Mesa Police Department said in a press release.

Cox is charged with the following felonies: one count of first-degree murder, nine counts of sexual assault, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of burglary, one count of aggravated assault and one count of sexual abuse.

Morse was found dead in her apartment near Southern Avenue and Country Club Drive, with an investigation revealing she died of asphyxiation and had also been sexually assaulted, authorities said.

The second crime occurred in the same apartment complex when Cox allegedly broke into the 23-year-old woman’s home and sexually assaulted her before stealing cash and a VCR from the residence, authorities said. The woman survived.

DNA samples collected at each of the crime scenes matched, but authorities couldn’t identify a suspect.

Mesa police recently conducted a follow-up investigation on the cases and a family line was developed using DNA technologies that identified Cox as the suspect.

A fingerprint comparison between a previous misdemeanor case Cox was arrested for and those retrieved from the crime scenes was conducted and resulted in a match, authorities said.

Cox had not been identified as a lead in either case, authorities said, but his mother lived next to Morse.

A DNA test was conducted after Cox was arrested and it matched both crime scene profiles, authorities said.

He is being held on a $1 million cash bond and it was unclear Tuesday if Cox had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Suspect in decades-old Mesa murder, sex assault cold cases arrested in Colorado