Child's killer scheduled for release

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - An old Texas law is leading to the expected release of a convicted child killer after he served only a third of his 99-year sentence.

Vincent Earl Cox was convicted of murdering Robbie Schmidt, 7, in 1979, and state records show he is expected to be released from prison this April.

Cox's crime was apparently so horrific a Texas appeals court justice wrote in 1982 ruling, "The facts and circumstances surrounding this murder are so brutal and gruesome that this court will not detail them."

"He was funny, he was sweet. He was a little boy that just everybody loved," said Nancy Schmidt, Robbie's mother. "He just lit up the room."

Court records show in June 1979, Robbie went out to play in a field near his southwest Houston home. Even though he had a cast on his arm, it didn't stop him from playing Frisbee with a group of kids and adults, including Cox, who was 25 at the time. 

"Terrible, you know, took advantage of a little boy in a cast," said Schmidt.

While no one is certain what prompted the incident court records show Cox, who already had a prior criminal record, hit Robbie.

"What I heard from the investigator was that he had hit my son and was afraid that I would do something to send him back to prison, so he killed him," said Schmidt.

Robbie's body was found later in a field that night after his mother organized a search party of neighbors. 

"I have never been able to set my dinner table for three," said Schmidt. "So we have never sat down at the dinner table for 33 years."

Court records show when Cox was arrested he confessed to the murder. An appeals court record showed Cox stated to police that he couldn't remember all the details but, "all I know is that I did kill the boy." 

Cox tried to have his confession ruled inadmissible, but his appeal was denied in 1982.

"I thought he would die in prison," said Schmidt.

Cox is not being granted parole. His release stems from an old Texas law that allowed prisoners to accrue so-called "good time." Essentially, this now-defunct law allowed prisoners to knock a day off the end of their required time in prison for every day they were considered to have had good behavior behind bars. Texas banned this practice for violent offenders in the mid 90s, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the change in the law could not be retroactively applied to older cases.

"I got life. I got more than 33 years. Why should he have less than me?" said Schmidt. "This is not fair, this mandatory release. They know they made a mistake because they changed the law."

Victims' Rights Advocate Andy Kahan said about two dozen Houston area killers are expected to be released from prison over the next five years because they were all sentenced under the old Texas law.

"That's got to send chills down everybody's spine," said Kahan. "These are cold-blooded, diabolical murders."

When released, each of these killers will still be under state-mandated supervision. Schmidt said she is actively pushing for Cox to be released under the highest level of state mandated supervision, including GPS monitoring of his location.

"As far as I know, from parole board members, he has never shown any remorse," said Schmidt. "He's supposed to carry on with his life? My life is a wreck."

Officials with the Board of Pardons and Paroles told Local 2 the level of supervision these men will receive is decided on a case-by-case basis and no decision has been made yet on these offenders. State officials said if a person released under the old law does violate conditions of their release, then they can be sent back to prison.

"I'll be watching him," said Schmidt. "I want him to mess up and go back to prison."

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