Father of 8-year-old girl tells how a convicted killer became the baby sitter

It wasn’t until his 8-year-old daughter said she had been raped that he discovered the man his ex-wife had picked as a baby sitter was a convicted killer.

He was “shocked, plain and simply,” when he found out the man who had been watching his two children on-and-off for two years had strangled a woman to death with a rope in 1984, he said.

That’s because he didn’t know the baby sitter’s real name: Clifford Eugene Cox. Everyone just called him “Ziggy,” he said.

Cox, 56, was arrested and booked into Sedgwick County Jail on Monday on suspicion of child rape, aggravated criminal sodomy and aggravated indecencies with a child, jail records show.

Cox pleaded guilty in 1984 to strangling Cathryn Kessinger, 23, of Winfield with a rope. He was sentenced to life but was let out of prison on parole in 2006, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records.

The father says Cox sexually abused his daughter multiple times over two years. Police say the 8-year-old was only one of several children Cox baby-sat, including the girl’s three siblings and Cox’s children.

After the girl’s mother pulled her and her siblings from Cox’s care after he “basically shoved them outside in the heat with no water,” the 8-year-old girl felt comfortable enough to tell a relative about the allegations of sexual abuse, the father said.

Shame kept the girl from reporting it earlier, her father said. She didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone until she knew she would never see him again, he said. In July, she told her aunt, who told the girl’s father. He reported it to police immediately, he said.

It is the Eagle’s policy not to identify suspected victims of rape without their permission. The girl’s father’s name is not being used in this story to protect the identity of the girl.

“My daughter kept this secret for two years,” he said. “She said she didn’t want to get him in trouble, and I have to tell her it’s OK because what he did was bad.”

The girl told a relative that Cox said what he did to her was “punishment.”

“She said she felt dirty, and that she’d be in trouble if she told.”

Hard to find background on convict

After the girl’s father did some digging, he found out Ziggy’s real name, but even if he had known sooner, he may not have found much.

A simple Google search doesn’t turn up much information on Cox’s criminal history, and because Cox’s conviction was so long ago, most information about it is stored behind pay-walls in digital newspaper archives, like Newsbank.

Cox doesn’t show up on the Kansas offender registry website because his murder conviction — in 1984 — occurred before July 1, 1997. Crimes occurring before then don’t qualify for registration, according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

The girl’s father said he never would have left his children in the care of anyone on the offender registry, which he called an “automatic disqualification.” The only place he could find background information on Cox was the Kansas Adult Supervised Population Electronic Repository (KASPER), he said.

Even if Cox was a registered offender, Kansas does not have a law banning registered offenders from living near schools, day care centers or anywhere else. Kansas law does not dictate with whom offenders are allowed to associate, including who they baby-sit. Those restrictions could be set as conditions of parole or probation.

Cox, who was serving a life sentence for murder, had been released on parole in 2006 and had remained under parole supervision when he was arrested Monday, said Samir Arif, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections.

Arif said he can’t provide information about the extent of Cox’s parole supervision.

In an email, Arif said Cox “was managed in accordance with the level and type of risk of which the Kansas Department of Corrections was aware. … The crime for which he was on parole was not a sex offense, and so he was not managed as a sex offender.”

In 2010, while still on parole for Kessinger’s murder, Cox went to court on felony drug possession and misdemeanor weapons charges. Instead of going back to prison or jail, Cox took a plea deal and was sentenced to one year of probation after the court dropped the felony charge.

“(Cox) enters this plea w/knowledge that plea may affect parole + acknowledge he has discussed some w/his attorney,’ a handwritten journal entry in the case says.

After eight months, Cox was granted early release from probation, court records show.

It’s unclear if this arrest and conviction had any effect on his parole.

‘Sometimes she gets quiet’

The 8-year-old girl’s father said the girl’s mother decided to put the children in Cox’s care. She works a lot, he said, and he wanted his children to know their mom. So when the children would stay with her, she often would need a baby sitter.

The girl’s mother knew someone in Cox’s family, he said, and that’s how Cox became the baby sitter.

When contacted by a reporter from The Eagle by phone Tuesday morning, the girl’s mother said she had no comment.

The father said he doesn’t want people to blame the girl’s mother, and he said he does not hold it against her.

“She feels completely betrayed, ashamed and guilty,” he said. “She thought she knew (Cox’s) family and she feels more guilty than anyone. She didn’t know his real name either.”

The girl and her brother live primarily with him, he said, but during the summers he allows her and his son to stay with their mother.

Now, whenever the children stay with their mother, they are baby-sat by grandparents when she’s not around, he said.

The girl’s father said she’s “handling it” as well as an 8-year-old girl can.

“Sometimes she gets quiet, and I worry,” he said.

Contributing: Tim Potter of The Wichita Eagle

Chance Swaim: 316-269-6752, @byChance Swaim
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