California pastor cleared in Las Vegas man's death

August 15, 2014 - 10:04 PM
Pastor Accused-Vegas Homicide

FILE - In this July 2, 2014 file photo, Robert Cox speaks with the media after a court appearance in Las Vegas. The California pastor won't face charges in a Las Vegas parking lot altercation that left a man dead. Prosecutors announced Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 they won't pursue charges against Cox in the death of 55-year-old Link Ellingson.The Clark County district attorney's office concluded it could not rule out that Cox had acted in self-defense when the two fought. Ellingson hit his head and died six months later. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped their case against a California pastor who was suspected of punching a man in a Las Vegas parking lot tussle, leading to the man's death six months later.

The Clark County district attorney's office announced Friday that it will not seek a grand jury indictment against Robert Lynn Cox, 35, in the death of Link Ellingson, 55. Prosecutors said it would be too difficult to disprove Cox's claims of self-defense.

"I started to weep and held my children," Cox said Friday about hearing the news, adding that he hopes he and his wife can restart adoption proceedings that were on hold because of the case. He said it felt "like a weight was lifted."

The deadly encounter outside the Four Kegs Pub happened the night of June 13, 2013, while Cox, his family and some interns from Place of Refuge church in Manteca, California, were in Las Vegas for community service and ministry activities with a partner church.

Cox, who said he doesn't drink but wanted to try the pub's famed stromboli after it was featured on the Food Network, said he and other group members were in the parking lot when Ellingson approached them aggressively and assaulted them. Ellingson's reason was unclear.

Witness Kelli Lane told KTXL-TV, "He (Ellingson) said, 'Hey girlfriend, you want to "F'' with me?' 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.'"

Cox said he was trying to restrain Ellingson when they fell to the ground and Ellingson hit his head.

Police said Cox initially noted he broke a finger and told investigators he punched Ellingson, but he changed his story afterward. Surveillance video showed Ellingson falling to the ground, but the men stepped out of the frame before the fall, according to a police report.

The badly injured Ellingson was not able to offer a coherent explanation of the encounter, according to his wife, but was shown a photo of Cox at one point and uttered the words, "He's trouble."

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, she said, "are not even in his vocabulary."

She said she had to watch her once-gregarious husband suffer through brain surgeries, debilitating strokes and a coma before he died of hemorrhaging just before Christmas.

"We gave it our best to get justice for Link," she said, adding that she plans to pursue a civil lawsuit. "Things just don't always turn out the way we think they should."

Cox's lawyers said they expected their client would be acquitted.

"We knew Rob was innocent all along," said attorney Frank Cofer III. "There was just no evidence that Rob was guilty of any crime."