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Jury sides with Cox family in wrongful death suit of teens killed

By Tom Hintgen / Otter Tail County Focus

A jury reached its verdict last Wednesday in a civil case connected to the tragic murder-suicide three years ago of Dylan Cox and Tabitha Belmonte.

Belmonte’s mother, Bobbie Teeple, of Dent, and eight other family members had asked for a total of $5 million from the Cox family in a wrongful death lawsuit. Each plaintiff sought in excess of $50,000.

After deliberating for about one hour, the Otter Tail County District Court jury rejected all claims, unanimously siding in favor of the Cox family and awarding no money to the plaintiffs.

In March 2011, 16-year-old Tabitha Belmonte was shot and killed at the Cox family’s Amor home by 17-year-old Dylan Cox, who then turned the gun on himself.

Teeple and the other plaintiffs had alleged that Dylan’s parents, Darrin and Catherine Cox, kept several firearms in their home and created an unsafe environment for the young couple, who were living there at the time with their infant daughter, Emma.

But the jury ruled that the shooting was neither foreseeable nor intentional. Rather, they determined, it was “unintentional by reason of mental illness or defect” on the part of Dylan, according to court records.

The jury also took notice that several of the plaintiffs did not fit within the legal definition of “next of kin,” since Tabitha Belmonte was never legally adopted by Steven L. Teeple, Sr., Bobbi Teeple’s husband. The law states that a wrongful death suit “can be filed by a spouse or family member(s) of the deceased.”

The plaintiff exhibit list during the three-day trial included medical records, Facebook records, cell phone text messages, Department of Human Services family assessments and others.

The trial ran from Jan. 27 to Jan. 29. Judge Mark Hansen presided.

Forum News Service contributed to this report.

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