The Place of Refuge Church family in Manteca, California, cautiously celebrated Wednesday after the state of Nevada dropped a murder charge against their youth pastor, Robert Cox, stemming from a fight he had with a drunken man outside a bar last year.
Cox, 35, was arrested by Manteca police in June and was in jail for six days for the death of Link Ellingson, 55.
"We're simply not proceeding with the criminal complaint," prosecutor Robert Daskas told the Las Vegas Review-Journal Wednesday.
The pastor, who appeared in court with a group of supporters including his wife, Julie, should also have received his $100,000 bail money after Justice of the Peace Janiece Marshall ordered that it be returned to him.
The case is still being deliberated by a grand jury, but Cox's attorney, Frank Cofer, told the Journal that even if the youth pastor is indicted he will ultimately be acquitted.
The youth pastor had fought with Ellingson outside the Four Kegs Sports Pub in June 2013 while on a church trip in Las Vegas.
Cox, his wife, Julie, and about 20 interns said they had stopped at the bar to get dinner. They said Ellingson attacked them while they were chatting in the parking lot for no apparent reason and Cox stepped in to defend the group after Ellingson assaulted several of them.
The group insisted that Ellingson fell and hit his head during the fracas and he was hospitalized. Court documents, however, suggested a different account and alleged that Cox punched Ellingson in the head causing severe injury from which he died on Dec. 15, 2013.
In a post on their Facebook page Wednesday, the Place of Refuge Church thanked Cox's supporters and said they should know if the grand jury plans on pursuing the case next week.
"Thank you for all the messages and phone calls regarding pastor Rob Cox. Pastor Rob and his family and our church have appreciated the prayers and support of so many. We can confirm the state of Nevada, via the Las Vegas DA, dropped all charges against pastor Rob today, but we are still awaiting a decision from the grand jury," noted the church.
"They have heard the case and will decide whether to pursue charges. We should know next week. We celebrate this victory today and ask for continued prayers until this case is finally closed and pastor Rob is officially exonerated and all the facts of this case can be made public. Our prayers have been and continue to be with the family of the man who passed away," it ended.
Outside of court, Cox told the Journal that he was still cautious about the grand jury proceedings.
"I got excited when I got a letter saying no charges were going to be filed," Cox said. "So I know not to get too excited about anything yet."
He said since his arrest he has prayed about the case, asking that "God's wisdom will come through to judges or whoever."
"The whole time I've had to trust God," he told the Journal.