South Alabama family continues search for answers in murder mystery

Earl Cosby's death remains unsolved.
Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 4:45 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2023 at 10:26 PM CDT
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RUTLEDGE, Ala. (WSFA) - It was June 13, 2016, and Brent Cosby was at home getting ready for dinner when his mother called. She was worried about his father, Earl Cosby. Brent had no idea that this phone call would mark the start of a years-long mystery.

“My mother called, and she was panicking. She said his truck was at his office and the gate to his office was open. She said your dad’s not back, wherever he’s gone, he’s not here, and he wouldn’t have let the gate to his office open and his light was off,” Brent Cosby said.

These little details were crucial because Brent said his father was a meticulous man, known for sticking to a strict routine. He often visited the same places in the small town of Rutledge each day and always ended his evening by closing the gate at his business. He owned a used car business in Rutledge and at times, he would drive around and test out cars with customers.

Earl’s son wasn’t really worried until the second phone call from his mother. That’s when he left his home in Andalusia, rushed to his father’s office in Rutledge, and forced his way in.

“And that’s when I found him. I had to pry the door open, and I found him lying face down in a pool of blood,” Brent Cosby said.

Brent Cosby can vividly remember a lot of the details from that June night. He said it was around 7:30 when he pushed that door open and found his father’s stiff and cold body. Brent recalls the large amounts of blood, calling 911, and performing CPR. He also remembers what the medical personnel said when they arrived.

“They kept saying it looks like he had a medical emergency, maybe even an aneurysm. But, I kept thinking ‘why is there so much blood?’ I also noticed a lot of things were out of place and his wallet was missing. To this day, we never recovered his wallet. I think at that point, they started treating this like a crime scene,” Brent Cosby said.

Eventually, forensics teams and even the district attorney arrived on the scene late that June 2016 night. They tried to piece things together, but Brent believes it was too late and the crime scene had already been compromised. Dozens of people, from deputies to family members, had been in and out of Earl Cosby’s office and his body had been moved several times.

“I work as a therapist and I experienced my own trauma that day,” Brent said.

Brent Cosby was the one who found his 78-year-old father shot and killed in his office. He’s also the one leading the charge and finding answers in this case. He described his father as a simple countryman, and he still can’t think of anyone who had an issue with him.

“He watched me graduate college both times. He attended my wedding as my best man,” he said. “He was a good guy. My dad was born and raised here. Born in 1938. He served in the U.S. Army, and he came home and said he wanted to start an auto body repair and paint business and he did. He was just a great guy, and he was kind to everyone. He had compassion for a lot of people and enjoyed working with people with disabilities. He had a friend with cerebral palsy, and he taught him how to work on cars. He inspired me to learn more about mental health, physical and mental disabilities, and more. He’s the reason why I became a therapist.”

Once he settled back in in his hometown in Rutledge, after serving in the military, Earl Cosby opened Cosby Body Shop and got into his routine. He would go to the bank, the store, and then, his office.

It’s been seven years now since the 70-year-plus man was killed in that office and the rumors in the small town of less than 500 people have swirled over the years. A lot of rumors, but no answers. His son Brent keeps Cosby Body Shop up and running. There’s a wreath on the door and a special light, in his honor.

“A lot of unanswered questions,” Brent said. “Was he robbed? His wallet was missing. He went to the same places every day, at the same time. Was he a creature of habit to a fault? Was someone following him? My mom and I have drafted a list of possible suspects and created our theories. But, nothing. I haven’t even talked to our current sheriff in over a year on this case.”

The Cosby family feels like they’ve been ignored and haven’t been updated on the ongoing investigation from officials. One leader who has been by the family’s side is Rutledge’s mayor. Steve Phillips was Earl Cosby’s friend and lived not far from him.

“Part of the aggravation about this whole thing is the way they’ve treated the family. They couldn’t get any answers from anybody,” Phillips said. “This is a small community. You could be standing in line at the grocery store with that person that killed him and not know it.”

Working as a therapist, Brent Cosby helps his patients address different traumas and for several years, he’s also worked on his own. A lot of his therapy sessions focus on what he saw that night and accepting that he may never know who killed his father.

“That’s a hard pill to swallow, but that’s where we are,” he said.

But, that doesn’t mean they will stop searching. A wreath remains on the door of Earl Cosby’s office and the light is still on. Brent’s brother passed away a few years back from cancer. His dad kept that light on after his death saying he would ‘keep it on until’. When his mother saw that the light was off on June 13, 2016, she knew something terrible happened. They both said Earl would never dim that light.

Now, it’s back on and Brent Cosby said they will keep it on “until”— they have answers in his father’s case.

“For something tragic to happen like that, not only did it impact our family, it still impacts this entire community,” Brent said.

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