June 18-- A Florida jury learned Tuesday that the man who killed Toombs County teenager Courtney Wilkes attempted to rape another girl a week before killing Courtney.
Our courtroom correspondent Angel McCurdy files this report.
"A young Kentucky girl took the stand Tuesday laying
out the details of an attack at Cassine Garden that took place just
one week before 15-year-old Courtney Wilkes’ body was found.
The now 16-year-old Glasgow, Ky. Girl told the jurors the boy, who she
only knew as Steven, tried to strangle her, who pushed her onto the
ground and demanded she remove her clothes.
“I was scared to death,” said the girl who was 14 at the time of the
attack. “He kept telling me to take my clothes off and I was about to
but I said no and just yelled ‘No, no, no.’
“Then he said, ‘OK, OK. I can’t do this’.”
Jurors listened to the girl during the second day of the death penalty
phase for 23-year-old Steven Cozzie, who was convicted Friday of
The girl’s grandmother, who picked her up after that alleged attack,
told the jurors that because she hadn’t been actually hurt they
decided not to call law enforcement.
“We just made a poor choice,” the woman said, reaching for a tissue as
she began to cry. “That failure was on our part. Maybe if we’d let
(the girl) decide we would have called the police and there would have
been a different outcome.”
This week began the penalty phase of his trial that will decide if he
is sentenced to life without parole or the death sentence. The jury
will recommend a sentencing to the court once statements are complete.
Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells will make the ultimate decision.
The defense for Cozzie brought several members of his family to the
witness stand, each of them retelling the troubling young life of
“He was being bounced back and forth … he didn’t have a stable life,”
said his uncle, Robert R. Cozzie. “He needed a secure place to grow
up, but I don’t think he got that.”
Cozzie’s half-sister also was called to the witnessstand. The 21-year-old Mississippi woman said as a young girl she was molested by Cozzie. “I didn’t trust him,” she said, crying. “… But he’s my brother and I still love him.”
The woman said while in school Cozzie was constantly picked on saying it
seemed like he “had a target on him.” She said the small boy would
never stand up for himself, even when it was his half-brother beating
The Cozzie children, according to the woman, grew up in challenging
circumstances. Cozzie’s two youngest half-sisters were allegedly
molested by a family member while they lived with him, his mother slept with
several young boys while Cozzie was in high school, constant moving from state to state, and constant bullying at home and school.
“He was a vulnerable person,” she said. “He was easy to mess with
and he couldn’t stick up for himself and if he did it was just him
The woman's brother, Anthony Kirby, added to the details of Cozzie’s early
life discussing drug use in the home, sexual exploits between the two
brothers and constant beatings from family members.
Psychologist Stephen Zieman of Pensacola said if Cozzie had a
structured home he could have surpassed the impact it had on him
“He has an IQ of 83. … That means he is only smarter than 13 percent
of the 23 year olds in the U.S.,” Zieman said. “This is who Steven is.
He just can’t think the way the rest of the world can.”
Court will resume at 8:30 Wednesday at the Walton County Courthouse in DeFuniak Springs."