Dylan: 'I'm sorry, Mom' Police reports detail what led up to teen murder-suicide
BATTLE LAKE, Minn. - It seemed like a normal night despite the fighting.
While there had been bickering back and forth between 17-year-old Dylan Cox and the mother of his baby, 16-year-old Tabitha Belmonte, it was nothing new.
In the seven months after their daughter was born, the teenagers lived with Dylan's parents and tried to make a relationship work, but it had not been going well.
Tabitha would complain that Dylan didn't spend enough time with her, his mother said. Dylan felt pressured by the situation and had been belittled and picked on by Tabitha to the point that he transferred schools, his father said.
The information about the events leading up to the March 21 deaths
of the two teenagers, like the rest of the details in this story, comes from 53 pages of investigative reports released by the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office to The Forum in response to a data request made under state open-records law.
In a report dated April 20 included in the released documents, the shooting was classified as a closed case. Evidence confirmed that Cox fatally shot Belmonte with a handgun, hitting her with four shots before turning it on himself, investigators found.
On the night of the murder-suicide, Dylan's mom, Catherine Cox, was in her usual role as referee, the calming influence who could ease tension between the young parents. It was not an ideal situation, but Catherine and her husband, Darrin Cox, thought it was the best thing for the newborn because the 16-year-old mother was living with her 70-year-old grandmother, who they figured couldn't help much with child care.
(Both sets of the infant's grandparents - including Bobbi Teeple, Belmonte's mother - are now vying for court-ordered custody of the baby girl. The Coxes were given temporary custody in the interim.)
Catherine Cox's peacemaking began before she even got home from work. Dylan called and said Tabitha, who was home sick from school that day, was after him again.
When the mother got home about 5:30 p.m., she was in the kitchen mulling dinner options when both teenagers came in. They frequently talked about breaking up, and they were arguing about it yet again. Maybe we shouldn't go to prom together, they said.
Perhaps taking a break was for the best, Catherine Cox told them. Speaking to them individually about an hour later, she talked to Dylan about the college visit they had planned in Moorhead the next day and how he needed to get along with Tabitha for the sake of their daughter. Tabitha and Dylan's mother talked about prom and the demands of motherhood.
Both kids were civil and seemed to listen, his mother later told investigators.
But after Catherine Cox had given the baby a bath at about 8 p.m., Tabitha approached her and said this time it looked like it was really over. All her belongings had been packed into a duffel bag by Dylan. After the two mothers talked, Tabitha took the bag and went up to the second-floor loft where she had been staying with the infant since moving in.
Dylan came into the bedroom where his mother and girlfriend had chatted. For 10 or 15 minutes, he repeatedly apologized. "I'm sorry, Mom," she later recalled Dylan saying.
After apologizing, Dylan closed the bedroom door on his mother, who ran after him calling out that they were not done talking.
She was just leaving the room when she heard a loud noise she didn't recognize coming from the loft. She ran to the stairs, saw her son and heard the final gunshot.
It was just after 9 p.m. No more than an hour earlier, Dylan had written a message on his Facebook profile saying: "Goodbye to all my friends." He carried two handguns, pistols his ailing grandfather had given him, and there was a card in his wallet claiming he'd renounced Christianity in favor of Satanism.
Darrin Cox told deputies four days later he did not think his son really was worshipping Satan. He believed Dylan was a Christian talking about the devil for the "shock value."
The stress of the situation was the big factor, the father told deputies.
The night of the shooting, Catherine Cox gave police this assessment: "It's my fault. I pushed them in a situation he wasn't capable of handling."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535