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September 15, 2014

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Grand jury to examine pastor’s role in man’s death after Las Vegas altercation

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AP Photo/John Locher

Robert Cox speaks with the media after a court appearance Wednesday, July 2, 2014 in Las Vegas. A grand jury is reviewing the case of Robert Cox to decide whether to indict him in the death of Link Ellingson, who died of hemorrhaging about six months after a June 13, 2013, confrontation outside of the Four Kegs pub in Las Vegas.

Updated Wednesday, July 2, 2014 | 6:27 p.m.

All they wanted was Stromboli.

But the parking lot altercation that followed a late-night food fix last summer at a Las Vegas pub has devastated two families of faith. Marie Ellingson, who was married to Link Ellingson for 29 years, said she watched her once-gregarious husband suffer through brain surgeries, debilitating strokes and a coma for six months before he died of hemorrhaging just before Christmas.

Youth pastor Robert Lynn Cox, who was accused of murder in the case, was arrested at his church in Manteca, Calif., spent six days in a largely solitary county jail cell where he slept on the floor, and may be disqualified from adopting a group of siblings with his wife on account of his new criminal record.

A judge on Wednesday dismissed a murder charge against Cox, 35, as prosecutors revealed they are taking a different route for the case and have brought it before a grand jury.

His attorney, Frank Cofer III, anticipates a decision within a week.

Cox, meanwhile, will be receiving a refund for $100,000 bail he posted upon release from the Clark County Detention Center for the murder charge.

What happened outside the Four Kegs pub on June 13, 2013, remains unclear.

Cox, his family and some interns from Place of Refuge church were on their way to Texas when they made a three-day stop in Las Vegas to do community service and ministry activities with a partner church. After hearing about Four Kegs' famed Stromboli on the Food Network, Cox said, they stopped there for a late-night dinner.

Group members said they were in the parking lot when Ellingson, 55, approached, threatened and assaulted them.

"He said, 'Hey girlfriend, you want to 'F' with me?'" witness Kelli Lane told KTXL-TV. "And Rob was immediately like, "Oh my gosh, no,' backed up, 'I have kids here,' said no. And the man said, "Well I'm coming to 'F' with you.'"

According to witnesses in the group, Cox grabbed Ellingson and fell with him to the ground.

Ellingson hit his head on the pavement and went unconscious. When he died six months later at a hospital, the coroner ruled the case a homicide.

Cox initially said he punched Ellingson in the face but later described grabbing Ellingson's waist and falling to the ground with him, according to a Las Vegas police report.

Marie Ellingson, who wasn't at the scene, described "a wonderful husband" who rescued animals, attended church with her and was the "most giving guy I've ever had in my life." Some of the things he's accused of saying, Marie Ellingson said, "are not even in his vocabulary."

She said it's been difficult to follow coverage of the case and see reaction toward her husband.

"Unfortunately, it's been making me very sad. I'm a Christian myself," Marie Ellingson said. "It's discouraging to see a Christian church and to see these horrible things (they're saying)."

Cox said he was told no charges would be filed in the case and was "blindsided" when police showed with a fugitive warrant and arrested him in early June. He denies he changed his account of the confrontation. Friends wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Bring Justice" joined him in court.

"There's been a ton of support," Cox said. "They feel it's an injustice."

Metro Police Sheriff Doug Gillespie said detectives recommended a battery charge before turning the case over to the District Attorney's Office and closing their investigation.

A spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office said it is not commenting on the case.

Cofer called the incident an "absolutely clear-cut case of self-defense."

Meanwhile, Marie Ellingson said members of her own congregation, Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, have helped her and offered a listening ear amid her grief.

"I just really wish that the truth comes out, and that things are taken care of fairly and that Link is looked at in a good light," she said. "God is a judge, not me."

Sun reporter Ana Ley contributed to this report.

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