‘This is how the girls die’: Teen testifies against former Portsmouth police officer accused of rape

Investigative

MARCH 4, 2021 UPDATE: WAVY News 10 has confirmed Cleshaun Cox’s trial is now scheduled to begin on June 21.


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A teenager testified that she was afraid of dying the night an on-duty Portsmouth police officer raped her, according to court records.

“I couldn’t even tell if I was even going to come out of the situation alive,” the teenager told a judge in February. “Seriously. I was just thinking in my head the whole time that this is like the movies. Like, this is how the girls die.”

The teenager testified during a preliminary hearing for former Portsmouth Police Department Officer Cleshaun Cox, who is accused of raping and abducting her on May 27, 2019. She was 17 years old at the time of the alleged rape. The preliminary hearing in Portsmouth Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court was closed to the public, including journalists.

10 On Your Side investigators obtained transcripts of the teenager’s testimony after they were filed in Portsmouth Circuit Court. 10 On Your Side will not name her in this article to protect her privacy.

Cox worked for the PPD for more than a year before he was arrested. PPD spokesperson Victoria Varnedoe told 10 On Your Side investigators that Cox is no longer employed by the department, and referred other questions about his case to the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Prior to his position as a police officer, Cox worked as a corrections officer at St. Brides Correctional Center from May 2016 until February 2018, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Cox has remained in jail without bond since he was arrested on May 28, 2019. Documents filed in Portsmouth Circuit Court show that he told police that “nothing was forced and everything was consensual,” regarding the rape allegation.

For the first time in public record, the teenager’s testimony sheds light on the case against the 28-year-old former police officer.

The teenager testified that she was hanging out with friends in the parking lot of the Westwinds Apartments the evening before the alleged rape. The group was talking and listening to music when two Portsmouth police officers, including Cox, responded to a noise complaint. The officers arrived on the scene in separate police cars, according to her testimony.

The officers asked members of the group for identification. The teenager gave Cox her learner’s permit, which showed that she was 17, according to court records.

The police officers let several boys who were in the group leave the parking lot. They told the teenage driver that she was out past curfew, gave her a verbal warning, and told her and a young adult passenger in her car that they needed to drive home immediately, she testified.

“He (Cox) was just filling that into our heads, that if it wasn’t for him we would have been in some big, big trouble,” she testified.

The teenager and her adult passenger left the apartment complex parking lot, driving toward the 17-year old girl’s home where they both planned to spend the night. They were on Interstate-64 when they realized a Portsmouth police officer was following them, according to court records.

The teenager drove off the interstate and stopped to get gas at a 7-Eleven on Victory Boulevard. According to court records, she said that Cox followed her into the store parking lot with his police lights on. Cox yelled at her, and told her she was supposed to go straight home. He watched her pump gas, then got into his police car and followed her from the 7-Eleven to her house, according to her testimony.

Court records state that Cox got out of his police car at the teenager’s home, and that he was upset that her adult passenger was with her. Cox told the teenager to drive her friend to their home, and she became upset and started crying, according to her testimony.

“Because I already knew right then and there that whatever this was was not correct,” she testified. “I knew right then.”

The teenager tried to call a family member as Cox followed her to her friend’s home, according to court records. She was not able to get in touch with the family member. When they arrived, the adult passenger told Cox that she did not want to leave the teenager alone, but he ordered the woman to go into her house, according to the teenager’s testimony.

Then, Cox told the teenager to follow his police car so they could go somewhere to talk. She testified that she followed his orders because he was an on-duty police officer, and she was afraid. He led her to a nearby parking lot, and told her to get out of her car and leave her personal items, like her keys and cellphone, inside of it, according to court records.

“I’m following directions, and I’m listening to what he’s saying. I’m trying to cooperate, but at the same time I’m really emotional,” she testified. “I guess he was getting a little annoyed with me, because he kept telling me to stop crying.”

In the parking lot, Cox allegedly tried to persuade the teenager to have sex with him, according to court records. He told her he knew how she could “resolve” her problems with the noise complaint and being out past curfew, and he presented her with options for how she could have sex with him. He also told her he could write her tickets for issues involving her car, according to court records.

“He was walking around my car saying, ‘I can get you for this. I can get you for that. I can get you for this,'” she testified. “Which made me cry more.”

The teenager told Cox that she did not want to have sex with him and that she was uncomfortable. Court records state that Cox told her to get into his police car. She said she screamed and had an anxiety attack, but ultimately obeyed him. He drove her to another location, near a warehouse, where she said he raped her, according to court records.

“I was just feeling like these were my final moments,” she testified.

Cox allegedly drove the teenager back to her car and told her, “if anybody asks, nothing happened,” according to court records. She testified that she drove back home and reported the rape to a family member.

“He was trying to make it seem as if, if I didn’t do this, I was going to still be in trouble, and if I even told anybody, I was going to be in trouble,” she testified.

In a court hearing on Dec. 3, there was no trial date set because the Circuit Court is awaiting approval of its jury trial plan from Richmond.

Ali Sprinkle, Cox’s court appointed advisor, told 10 On Your Side Cox does not want a jury trial, but the Commonwealth does.

WAVY News 10 will continue to follow developments in this case.

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