LAS VEGAS – A grand jury was reviewing the case of the Northern California youth pastor who was accused of murder after a late-night run-in outside a Las Vegas pub led to a man's death six months later.
Prosecutors revealed the news during a court hearing Wednesday, when Robert Lynn Cox, 35, a pastor at The Place of Refuge church in Manteca, California, appeared with his wife, Julie, and a small group of supporters. It's unclear when the grand jury, whose proceedings are secret, will decide whether or not to indict Cox in the death of Link Ellingson, 55.
The case has devastated families on both sides, leading to Cox's arrest at his church, a six-day, largely solitary stay in a county jail and the possible termination of the couple's adoption proceedings. Marie Ellingson, who was married to Link Ellingson for 29 years, said she watched him suffer through surgeries, strokes and a coma for six months before he died just before Christmas.
What is up for dispute is what happened outside the Four Kegs pub on June 13, 2013.
Cox, his family and some church interns were on their way to Texas when they made a three-day stop in Las Vegas to do community service and ministry activities with a partner church. After hearing about Four Kegs' famed Stromboli on the Food Network, Cox said, they stopped there for a late-night dinner.
Group members said they were in the parking lot when Ellingson approached, threatened and assaulted them.
"He said, 'Hey girlfriend, you want to 'F' with me?'" witness Kelli Lane told KTXL-TV. "And Rob was immediately like, "Oh my gosh, no,' backed up, 'I have kids here,' said no. And the man said, "Well I'm coming to 'F' with you.'"
According to witnesses, Cox grabbed Ellingson and fell with him to the ground.
Ellingson hit his head on the pavement and went unconscious. When he died of hemorrhaging six months later at a hospital, the coroner ruled the case a homicide.
Cox initially said he punched Ellingson in the face but later described grabbing Ellingson's waist and falling to the ground with him, according to a Las Vegas police report.
Marie Ellingson, who wasn't at the scene, described "a wonderful husband" who rescued animals, attended church with her and was the "most giving guy I've ever had in my life." Some of the things he's accused of saying, Marie Ellingson said, "are not even in his vocabulary."
She said it's been difficult to follow coverage of the case and see reaction toward her husband.
"Unfortunately, it's been making me very sad. I'm a Christian myself," Marie Ellingson said. "It's discouraging to see a Christian church and to see these horrible things (they're saying)."
Cox said he was told no charges would be filed in the case and was "blindsided" when police showed up to his California church with a fugitive warrant and arrested him in early June. He denies he changed his account of the confrontation. Friends wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Bring Justice" joined him in court.
"There's been a ton of support," Cox said. "They feel it's an injustice."
Meanwhile, Marie Ellingson said her own congregation, Canyon Ridge Christian Church, has helped her through her grief.
"I just really wish that the truth comes out, and that things are taken care of fairly and that Link is looked at in a good light," she said. "God is a judge, not me."