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Murder victim’s family sues Rutherford County

By TERENCE CORRIGAN - Special to the T-G
Posted 1/11/22

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The family of Bedford County murder victim Adrienne Cox is suing Rutherford County, claiming that county bears responsibility for her death.  

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Murder victim’s family sues Rutherford County

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The family of Bedford County murder victim Adrienne Cox is suing Rutherford County, claiming that county bears responsibility for her death.  

The family is asking for up to $44 million in damages from Rutherford County and Steven Lokey, 31, who is accused of committing the crime. The family claims that the county’s actions in releasing Lokey a convicted felon prior to his court appearance, resulted in the wrongful death of 30-yearold Cox.  

Lokey is charged with 1st degree murder in the slaying of Cox in her Neeley Avenue apartment in Shelbyville on June 19, 2020, two days after Rutherford County released him from jail where he was being held awaiting a hearing on a charge of probation violation. Cox died as a result of strangulation and stab wounds, according to the autopsy report.  

Cox’s roommate, 24-year-old Brianna Stipe, witnessed the attack which occurred on the bed where they both were seated as Lokey threatened to kill them. According to Stipe, Cox was strangled with an electrical cord and stabbed twice with a kitchen knife.  

Stipe testified that Lokey killed Cox because he was afraid she would call police and his probation would be revoked and he would be jailed.  

Cox’s family is alleging in their lawsuit that Rutherford County was negligent in releasing Lokey on June 17 with no bond, on only his promise to appear in court.  

When he was released, Lokey was being held in jail on a charge of violation of probation. He was on probation for a conviction on a charge of aggravated burglary in Rutherford County and had failed to report to any of his appointments with his probation officer since his release in February 2020.  

On April 18, 2020, the arrest warrant was issued for Lokey on the charge of probation violation. On the arrest warrant, it was stated that he was to be held without the possibility of release. But on the warrant, “Hold w/out bond” was crossed out and “ROR (per Court order)” was inked in above it. (ROR is Released on Recognizance no bond needed.)  

Lokey has an extensive criminal history involving theft, drugs and violence going back to 2009. He has many times over the years failed to show up for court or to report to probation, court documents reveal.  

Lokey’s criminal history, prior to his release in Rutherford County, according to the TBI, includes:  

  • Domestic Assault, May of 2009
  • Probation Violation, January of 2010
  • Probation Violation, May 2010
  • Probation Violation, January 2011
  • Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, July 2011
  • Felony Theft, Failure to Appear in Court, December 2011
  • Aggravated Burglary, January 2012
  • Domestic Assault, April 2012
  • Aggravated Burglary, Theft August 2012
  • August 2012, Probation Violation
  • January 2013, Felony Probation Revoked
  • January 2014, Aggravated Burglary, Theft, Vandalism
  • February 2014, Probation Violation
  • March 2015, Theft, Failure to Appear in Court
  • January 2019, Burglary, drug charges (sales and possession) involving methamphetamine
  • April 2019, Assault
  • August 2019, Probation Violation
  • March 2020, Burglary and Theft from motor vehicles

According to the court filing from the attorney representing the Cox family, Lokey was able to secure his release with the help of a Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department Detective. According to the court filing, Lokey was working as a confidential informant for the detective.  

Lokey “…called Rutherford County Detective Ty Downing on Downing’s personal cell phone from the phone kiosk inside the Rutherford County Jail, and during their recorded conversation … Detective Downing assured Lokey that it would only take a few phone calls for the County to take care of [sic] in order to facilitate Lokey’s release,” wrote attorney Crystal Etue with Galaher Law, of Franklin.  

The Galaher law firm is representing Cox’s family members: her father, Charles Garber and Cox’s four sons (Skyler, Dalton, Eric and Jared.) Charles Garber and his wife, Elaine are caring for Cox’s four minor sons.  

Rutherford County responds  

The county responded to the lawsuit by denying nearly all the claims brought against it in the suit. The county admits only that it is a government entity and that Adrienne Cox died on or about June 19, 2020. 

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