HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — After listening to arguments from defense attorneys for Cory Bigsby and the prosecution, Circuit Court Judge James Hawks needed about five minutes to pave the way for Bigsby’s incriminating statements to be used at trial.
The confessions – two written by Bigsby, another signed by him – were made while he was in custody, following the disappearance of his son Codi, 4, in late January 2022.
Bigsby’s lead attorney Amina Matheny-Willard argued the statements should have been thrown out because Bigsby was suffering from trauma brought on by police interrogation that began the day he reported Codi missing that January.
She said Bigsby was “at his wit’s end” when he wrote and signed separate statements in August 2022, and then wrote a third statement in December. The first version had Bigsby stating he found Codi unresponsive and tried to revive him, and then buried him a short distance from FedEx Field in Maryland. In the December statement, Bigsby said he beat the child to death before burying him.
Judge Hawks conceded that Bigsby was “heatedly interrogated” by police, but also said Bigsby was not cowering during questioning and his will was not compromised.
“We knew the law was on our side. It was a frivolous motion, and the court has ruled it accordingly and we are happy about it and we’re ready to try the case,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell.
“We maintain our client’s innocence,” said Matheny-Willard in a statement.
Bigsby’s other defense attorney Curtis Brown’s meandering line of questioning prompted the judge to interject several times, as Brown questioned a guard from Hampton Roads Regional Jail.
“You don’t have to help me,” Brown told the bench. “I’m not offering to help,” Judge Hawks replied.
Asked where the process now stood as far as getting justice for Codi, Bell replied, “When we get to the trial date, we’ll get there.”
Bigsby, who is free on $80,000 bond, had no comment as he left the courthouse as instructed by Matheny-Willard, who said she was “trying to set a good example”.
The body of Codi has never been found despite numerous searches. Cory Bigsby faces charges of murder and concealment of a dead body in the case, along with numerous other charges related to reportedly leaving his young children home alone.
Details of the statements emerged in Wednesday’s suppression hearing.
The first HRRJ officer testified during Wednesday’s hearing that Bigsby asked him to write a confession letter* around 1:30 a.m. Aug. 3, 2022.
The letter reads:
“Found my son unresponsive tried to [give] CPR, could not revive him. Tried several times. I beg God to save him. I decided to walk outside and spoke with God. Back to house, check on my son to see if he was breathing and tried along [time] to realize he was not coming back. I put [him in a] trash bag put [him] in [my] car [which] sat for 3 days.”
The letter adds a location where Bigsby buried his son in Maryland. The officer testified he asked Bigsby to sign the letter, then called his supervisor.
The same day, the nightshift supervisor said the officer was distraught and crying. The officer admitting, “I had to leave the building to gather myself. You think you’ve seen it all after 20 years in the military. This moved me to a different mental state.” On the stand, the supervisor said she turned on her body camera, then asked to open Bigsby’s cell, where she asked him to write his own confession.
In this letter*, Bigsby allegedly writes: “I Cory J. Bigsby SR., am confessing that on January 30th, 2022 [I] stepped outside of my apartment… to get some items out of my car to wash clothes and when I returned, I found my son Codi Josiah Bigsby laying at the bottom of the steps unresponsive. He must have fallen. I then tried to revive him by administering CPR several times over and over until I couldn’t anymore. Then I prayed. I step[ped] outside for a few minutes and talked to God as I prayed, I asked God to allow my son a second chance. Then I administered CPR again but got [no] response so I panicked [sp.] and prayed. After that I placed him into a trash bag, and I placed him into the back of my truck. On the 21st of January around 3:30am I took him to Garrett A. Morgan Blvd and placed him into a resptacle [sp.] bend. After I realized it was a trash can took him out and put him into a hole I dug beside a tree inside the treeline. He has tape around his ankles and wrist, a cowboy rug under him, beats headphones in his ears. I then ate and placed his bike and some trash after I ate, at the scene.”
A lieutenant colonel with the Hampton Roads Regional Jail testified that Bigsby was placed on suicide watch the following day, Aug. 4, 2022. Around the same time, the lieutenant colonel said Bigsby was not eating and started to lose weight. On July 29, 2022, he arranged for Bigsby to have a meal with his family, saying “our job is to care in custody.” He said Bigsby’s family agreed to a Hardee’s luncheon for Aug. 5, 2022. The lieutenant colonel added that it was not under the assumption to get a confession since the planning for the meal was days before.
A third HRRJ officer took the stand, and described writings found in Bigsby’s cell around December 2022, which outlines a much different picture.
A notebook page* said “on 18 June 2021” Cory beat his son Codi until he went into cardiac arrest. Then Cory allegedly writes some very disturbing things with Codi’s body before burying him.
The defense attorneys, Curtis Brown, and Amina Matheny-Willard, are skeptical of the confession letters and writings. Matheny-Willard believes Hampton Police detectives mishandled Bigsby during the initial interview by ignoring his request for an attorney and suggesting Codi “fell.” She adds Bigsby was placed on suicide watch several times and put in isolation while in jail. Bigsby’s aunt, Jeanette Hinnant, testified her letters to Bigsby were unopened and returned to her.
In court, Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell said that “today is a day of reckoning, and today is the day of truth.” He said the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has been quiet and presenting evidence in the courtroom, while the defense is trying this case in the “public.”
Bell called a suppression motion by the defense a “fishing expedition,” in which the defense called “witness after witness,” such as former Hampton Police Chief Mark Talbot, Hampton Roads Regional Jail Superintendent Jeff Vergakis, and several other law enforcement officers.
Bell told the judge that “I have never seen anything like this,” referring to the defense presenting an “irrelevant” or “impeachable” line of questioning. He asked the judge to “hold their feet to the fire” saying “it is not fair to the citizens or the Commonwealth.”
Other developments in the case
The judge ruled statements made by Cory Bigsby can be used at trial.
On Wednesday, the judge also ruled that another one of Bigsby’s children, a 6-year-old, can testify via video at trial.
The judge said the child will “suffer severe emotional trauma if he must testify in the courtroom with his father.” This decision was made after hearing from a child trauma expert with Transitions Family Violence Services, a domestic violence shelter in Hampton. The 6-year-old met with the specialist in October 2023, when the child expressed “scared, worried and overwhelmed” feelings to the counselor. The defense requested a motion to have the child testify in person in front of his father and the court.
Another revelation in court was that the child and his siblings are now living with their mother.
The trial date is set for March 4-8, 2024.
*10 On Your Side obtained copies of the above-referenced letters and notebook entry presented in court on Nov. 8, 2023. WAVY did not include all of the details in our coverage on-air and in this article, due to their gruesome nature, but have provided the unedited copies in the links below:
- Letter presented during first HRRJ officer’s testimony
- Confession letter presented as being written by Cory Bigsby
- Writings from Bigsby’s cell presented by 3rd HRRJ officer