Ex-Marine who felt 'A Few Good Men' maligned him is mysteriously murdered

April 10, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Writer

NEEDHAM, MASS. — A photo accompanying an article in Sunday's Sun about th murder of an ex-Marine whose experiences were the basis for the movie "A Few Good Men" misidentified the man's attorney. )) His name is Don Marcari.

The Sun regrets the errors.

NEEDHAM, Mass. -- They are apparently unrelated flashes of violence, framing the final eight years of David Cox's life, from the front lines of the Cold War in Cuba to a muddy river bank in suburban Boston.

The most traumatic incident of his military tour in Cuba would inspire a movie that left him indignant, his and his comrades' service careers altered to quench Hollywood's desire for drama.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

But just when Mr. Cox's life appeared to be coming together, when he was on the verge of securing his first steady and lucrative civilian job, when he had finally decided to join a lawsuit against the makers of "A Few Good Men," he mysteriously disappeared Jan. 5.

For nearly three months, police searched for him as his family prayed for him, even consulting with psychics in futile attempts to contact him.

And then, April 2, a canoeist on the Charles River spotted a single white sneaker that led to a discovery in a wooded area.

Under branches ripped from nearby trees lay the body of Mr. Cox.

There were three bullet wounds in the torso and one wound behind the neck.

"It doesn't make any sense," said Elaine Tinsley, Mr. Cox's girlfriend. "I want to find out what happened."

So do the police. They have few clues, no suspects and no motive in the apparent execution-style murder.

But overshadowing all is the story of Mr. Cox, a 27-year-old ex-Marine who saw part of his life spread across a movie screen and who wanted to retrieve his good name.

David Cox and Jay Steeves were best friends, growing up together in Needham, a town of neat homes, manicured lawns and lush parks.

When they graduated from high school in 1985, they made a pact, enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps under the "buddy system" that guaranteed they could go through basic training together on Parris Island, S.C.

The night before they left home, they even called a local radio station and requested their favorite song, Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA."

"The two of us always said, the things we learned in the Marine Corps, you could never learn in any college," Mr. Steeves said. "He loved the Marines. He loved the discipline."

Gung-ho Marine

David Cox, brush-cut strawberry blond hair, blue eyes and thick muscles spread across his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame, was gung-ho Marine all the way.

He was the perfect candidate for one of the Marine Corps' tougher assignments, manning the perimeter at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

It's a lonely, pressure-filled job at the base they nickname Gitmo. Hour after hour the Marines on the guard line stand watch, sometimes less than 600 yards from Cuban soldiers. It is a frozen standoff in searing heat, a last vestige of the Cold War.

For about six months, Mr. Cox was part of Rifle Security Company, Windward Side, 2nd Platoon, a group of 30 men who %% lived by a fierce code of honor.

"We were the most gung-ho of the gung-ho Marines," said Christopher Lee Valdez, the platoon leader and Mr. Cox's best friend on the base.

July 1986 was a tough time for Mr. Cox's comrades at Gitmo. According to interviews and published reports, they had a man they perceived as a malingerer among them, Pfc. William Alvarado.

They believed that he had informed about a Marine firing shots into Cuba.

'Code Red'

One night, while watching a videotape of the movie "Animal House," the other Marines decided to take action, calling a "Code Red," jargon for a hazing, to teach Private Alvarado a lesson.

Ten Marines blindfolded him, stuffed a rag in his mouth, pummeled him and gave him a haircut.

It was Mr. Cox who handled the shears and who apparently first noticed that Private Alvarado's face was turning blue.

The incident had gone awry. Private Alvarado's lungs filled with fluid, he spit up blood and passed out.

"We didn't beat him to death," Mr. Valdez said.

Private Alvarado was taken off the island for emergency care in Miami. Eventually, he recovered from the assault.

But the Marines at Gitmo would also suffer wounds.

The commanding officer, Col. Sam Adams, was shipped out.

Seven of the attackers accepted "other than honorable" discharges. And of those, only Mr. Valdez would get his discharge upgraded to honorable.

Three men stood their ground, refusing the Corps' offer of a military plea bargain. They would take their chances in a full-blown court martial.

Would fight Corps

Mr. Cox was prepared to fight the Corps he believed in.

The first time Don Marcari met Mr. Cox was in the brig at Gitmo.

Mr. Marcari was a Navy attorney preparing to take his first case to trial. And Mr. Cox was his client.

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