On Wednesday a jury in Galveston County State District Court found James Larry Cosby guilty of capital murder in the deaths of his daughter, Britney, and her girlfriend of about two years, Crystal.
As we wrote in our January 2015 cover story, the motives for the murder have long been unclear, though family and friends told the Press and later testified in court that James Cosby (known as Larry by his family) had problems with women and did not like that his daughter was gay. However, Capt. Barry Cook, an investigator with the Galveston County Sheriff's Office has insisted throughout the investigation that it's impossible to know what triggered the fight that led to violence in March 2014: "These are the things we know. He had resentment. They had a better life. They were being treated differently at that house. He didn't agree with their lifestyle, but neither did the Jacksons. Were they killed for being gay? Who knows? He's the only one who knows and he's not talking."
On March 6, 2014 something went wrong in the Sunnyside house where Annie Lee Cosby, Larry's grandmother and Britney's great grandmother, had raised both Larry and his daughter, Britney. Larry had moved back into the house in late 2013 after being released from prison. Britney was living there with Crystal, taking care of Annie Lee.
That morning, Crystal and Britney were getting ready to take Crystal's daughter, Zaniah, then 5, on a school field trip to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. There was an altercation in the house, and then Zaniah was left alone in the car, a brand new vehicle Crystal and Britney had purchased with their combined tax returns. The child hid in the room her mother and Britney shared.
Nothing else was heard from the women and the next morning their bodies were discovered in Bolivar. Britney had been beaten to death, the killing blows administered to her head. She'd also been strangled. Crystal was strangled as well, but it was the gunshot wound on her right temple that killed her.
The investigation also turned up footage of Britney's car being driven by a man on the Bolivar ferry the night before the bodies were found and cell phone towers registered use of a cell phone number matching Larry's phone, according to court records.
During the initial investigation, authorities found a wooden shutter with a bloody thumbprint on it propped next to the Dumpster where the bodies were found. It matched the shutters on the green and white house where the family lived in Sunnyside. Then investigators found blood on the patio of the house, evidence that the driveway had been recently and scrupulously cleaned, and large blood stains in the converted living room Larry used as a bedroom. Police eventually found the car in a Houston impound lot. It was spattered with blood.
Larry was quickly arrested and charged with moving the bodies. But he sat in Galveston County Jail for more than a year while investigators, who told the Press they had "good circumstantial evidence," worked to build a solid case before turning their work to the Galveston County District Attorney. In June 2015, Larry was indicted for capital murder.
His trial lasted just over a week, and while various family members testified, Larry did not take the stand.
The jury asked to review a few things, including phone records, Larry's first interview with investigators at the Sunnyside house in March 2014, and a photo of the shutter left next to the abandoned hotel behind the Bolivar convenience store. Then the jury issued a guilty verdict.
“It's been a long two and a half years working on this. The Galveston Sheriff's Department did an incredible investigation, and the FBI really helped out,” Bill Reed, the felony prosecutor for the Galveston County District Attorney's Office, says.
Over the course of the trial, the jury was presented with about 800 exhibits, and ultimately found him guilty within about three hours, Reed noted. “There's a lot of circumstantial evidence, and ultimately we were able to use what investigators had gathered to build a compelling case.”
Cook says his feelings don't matter when it comes to a case like this one. “The remaining members of the Cosby family and the Jackson family still don't have Britney and Crystal. Crystal's daughter, Zaniah, is still going to grow up without a mother," Cook says. "It takes a long time to put these cases together, and it takes a lot of man hours to get them to trial too. We're ready to move along to the next case – hopefully we'll never have another one like this – and I just hope this helps give those families some form of peace. It doesn't replace them, but I hope this helps.”
He will automatically be sentenced to life in prison with no parole for the slayings. Larry is a convicted sex offender whose past arrests include several assault and weapons charges.