North Texas Daily

Denton author climbs Eagle statue to talk about his new book on the disappearance of a UNT student in 1997

Denton author climbs Eagle statue to talk about his new book on the disappearance of a UNT student in 1997

Denton author climbs Eagle statue to talk about his new book on the disappearance of a UNT student in 1997
January 29
20:33 2019

At about 2 p.m. Monday, Denton author Jack Pettie climbed onto the Eagle statue outside of the Union, hung a poster depicting his upcoming book, “Erasing Kelli Cox,” and began promoting his book and reciting information he claims exposes misconduct and negligence by UNT.

The book is set to be released on Amazon.com on Feb. 1 and details what Pettie claims to be the, “real truth about the abduction of Kelli Ann Cox.”

Kelli Cox studied psychology at UNT before disappearing on July 15, 1997. She was last seen at a Conoco gas station in Denton. She had been touring the Denton Jail with her criminology class before her disappearance. For the next 19 years, her family and investigators questioned what happened and whether or not she was still alive.

In April 2016, Denton authorities confirmed remains found in Brazoria County, near Houston, belonged to Kelli Cox through forensic testing of dental records. In December 2017, William Reece, now 58, was indicted in connection to the case.

While some students passed off Pettie’s speech as a way to promote his book, Pettie claims that was not his goal.

Author of “Erasing Kelli Cox,” James Pettie, stands beside the eagle statue while discussing his book and addressing how the university did not act on the abduction and murder of Cox. Pettie proposed the university build a monument in her honor. Image by Isabel Anes.

“I am not here to sell some books. I am here for all of you.” Pettie said. “[My goal] was to tell you all [students] what happened to Kelli. I have no ulterior motive here. This is my chance to help someone.”

As students gathered around him, Pettie accused UNT and the UNT Police Department of burying the “real truth” of  Cox’s disappearance and death. He claimed they were “poorly trained” and “negligent.”

However, the UNT Police Department did not conduct the investigation into her death — the Denton Police Department did.

Pettie also claimed there were patterns of people telling him to kill his story and leave it alone.

“People were telling me they did not care, that it was too old,” Pettie said to journalism sophomore Rachel Card.

Pettie announced the book, “Erasing Kelli Cox” last year in a Facebook post and said there would be a $10,000 reward for “information leading to prosecution and conviction of conspirators.”

Other claims and accusations produced by Pettie involve blaming the police chief as well as the detectives.

“[The] police chief lied about visitor policy and blamed the victim, sabotaged the crime scene and blamed the parents,” Pettie stated on his book cover.

The North Texas Daily could not find other reports to corroborate those claims.

Pettie also claims he has been in close relations with Cox’s parents over the last few years. 

The Daily contacted Cox’s mother, Jan Bynum, who said she would not be able to give a comment on her and Pettie’s relations, nor the contents of his book.

“I don’t know anything about what’s in the book,” Bynum said. “I haven’t read any of it.”

Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness was present during Pettie’s speech.

“One of my duties is to look at the free speech policy and make sure it’s being upheld,” McGuinness said. “UNT students and community members have free speech all over campus but also, being sensitive to Kelli and her family. I know Kelli’s family very well and I want to make sure she is taken care of.”

Editor’s Note: North Texas Daily staffers LaMya McGilvery, Isabel Anes, Meredith Holser and journalism sophomore Rachel Card all contributed to this story.

Featured Image: Jack Pettie, author of “Erasing Kelli Cox,” stands on the platform of the eagle statue while talking about the abduction and murder of Kelli Cox. Pettie was asked to stop down by the University of North Texas Police but he refused to give in. Image by: Isabel Anes. 

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Kiara St. Clair

Kiara St. Clair

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