Greenwood County Coroner Sonny Cox, second from left, confers with investigators at the scene of a fatal shooting along King's Court in Greenwood last year. (Index-Journal | file)
This week marked the one-year anniversary of Sonny Cox being sworn into his post as Greenwood County coroner. And Cox was busy the first year in his new job.
Greenwood County experienced 17 killings during 2013, a year several law enforcement officials regarded as one of the bloodiest in the area's history. Cox, a former Emerald City lawman of 35 years, got a close-up look at the mayhem that befell the county.
"This has to be the most violent year that I've seen in the history of our town," he said. "I got a different perspective on it this year. I still look at it from a law enforcement and forensic manner, but now it has just changed a lot for me."
Cox was not alone is his assessment of the violence. The 17 killings in 2013 marked a nearly 200 percent increase in homicides from the year before. Records indicate there were nine murders in Greenwood County in 2012, and just eight in 2011. In 2013, there were nine homicides in the City of Greenwood alone.
"Nine is a figure we consider outrageously high. But our hope is that it is an anomaly," Greenwood Police Chief Gerald Brooks said. "The previous year, we had three, the year before that, we had three, and the year before that, we had three. And so with this one year of an extremely high number, we hope it's an anomaly rather than a trend."
While the county saw a spurt of violence earlier in the year during the spring, 11 of the deaths occurred during a five-week period in October and November. That span included a pair of murder-suicides, none more notable than the one along Callison Highway in which a gunman killed five people before shooting himself.
Cox spent 29 years working with the Greenwood Police Department before he moved across the street and put on a deputy’s uniform, becoming a major for the Greenwood County Sheriff's Office. He dealt not only with learning the intricacies of being coroner during his first year in the position, but also had to grapple with an unheralded level of violence in the county.
"We're the ones who have to go to the house and tell somebody their loved one is not coming home," he said. "We've had to do that several times this year. That's probably about the hardest part of our job, knocking on a door and saying your loved one isn't coming home."
Greenwood County Sheriff Tony Davis said he would remember 2013 as one of the most tragic years of his 40-year law enforcement career. He noted an overwhelming majority of the year's homicides were carried out by people that were at least acquaintances of the victims.
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