21-year-old Fla. man held in slaying of Ga. teen

12:25 AM, Jun 18, 2011   |    comments
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  • Courtney Wilkes would have turned 16 on July 9 (Photo from her Facebook page)
  • Murder suspect Steven Anthony Cozzie

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. -- Pure evil.

That's how a Florida sheriff is describing the man now accused of murdering 15 year old Courtney Wilkes of Lyons, Georgia, who was vacationing at the beach with her family.

"This is a situation where you had one individual who obviously has evil in his heart, and there's no other way you could put a nice term on it," said the sheriff of Walton County, Florida, Mike Adkinson. "This is nothing more than pure evil."

Adkinson charged 21 year old Steven Anthony Cozzie with murdering Courtney.

At a Friday news conference, the Sheriff displayed a mug shot of Cozzie and described him as an unemployed resident of Santa Rosa Beach, "a predator, look at him, he's a predator. If he has a soul, it's absent. You don't do what this man did to a child and tell me that you have a soul. I'm not believing that."

Courtney, her parents and her two younger siblings were vacationing in Seagrove Beach, west of Panama City.

Sheriff Adkinson said Courtney's family last saw her at about 1:00 pm Thursday. They called his office at 4:00 pm.

He said Courtney's mother told detectives her daughter had not returned from a walk with an acquaintance she met during their vacation.

Within two hours, investigators had located Courtney's body and arrested Cozzie, charging him with murdering Courtney that afternoon.

Her body was in some woods not far from the beach and near the condo where the family was staying.

Adkinson said there is a large amount of physical and eyewitness evidence proving Cozzie murdered Courtney.

"I'm not going to speak to the specifics of the cause of death other than to say it was a violent struggle... it was an extremely, violent encounter."

Adkinson said Cozzie acted alone, and is "remorseless."

He said the two had never met before this week, "They were not girlfriend and boyfriend.... This is a purely predatory attack," and additional charges against Cozzie are "forthcoming."

Cozzie is being held without bail. Jail records did not show whether he was represented by an attorney.

Adkinson said he was aware of Cozzie being arrested one other time, on a misdemeanor trespassing charge in 2009.

Courtney Wilkes attended Toombs County High School, where she is included on the "Principal's List" because she earned a score of at least 95 in every subject.

She would have celebrated her 16th birthday in three weeks, on July 9th.


The Sheriff's Office posted Adkinson's entire news conference on its Facebook page, click here.




(WMBB Panama City contributed to this story.)

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