PITTSBURGH (AP) – A man convicted nearly 20 years ago of molesting three children in western Pennsylvania has been arrested as a fugitive in Oklahoma, where he was working at a Wal-Mart under an assumed name, authorities said.
Lynn Owen Cozart, 63, was arrested by Muskogee, Oklahoma, police on Thursday. The U.S. Marshal’s Western District of Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force had an arrest warrant for Cozart, who skipped out on bail before he could be sentenced in April 1996, Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said Friday.
FBI facial recognition software and fingerprints were used to confirm that the man calling himself David Stone was, in fact, Cozart, Berosh said. The software was used on a drivers’ license picture to confirm Cozart’s identity.
It was not immediately clear how Cozart obtained a license in Stone’s name, but police in Muskogee believe Cozart had worked at the store for about 12 years. Wal-Mart officials didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
The marshal’s task force in Pennsylvania had informed the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force in Oklahoma that Cozart was believed to be in that state, said Officer Lincoln Anderson, spokesman for the Muskogee police. A handful of Muskogee officers are on the FBI task force.
“They got the information that he could possibly be here, and the alias he could possibly be using, along with a picture, and one of our officers said, ‘Hey, I know that guy. He works at Wal-Mart,'” Anderson said, “which he’s been working at since, apparently, 2003.”
Berosh, the chief prosecutor in the county just northwest of Pittsburgh for the past 12 years, was an assistant prosecutor when a colleague convicted Cozart in February 1996. The allegations involved sordid sexual activity with three children dating back to 1984.
Berosh, who was hired as an assistant prosecutor in 1975, doesn’t remember all of the details, and didn’t have the case file available because it’s been archived long ago. But he made finding Cozart a priority before he retires at year’s end.
“The main reason why I remember it was the ADA (assistant district attorney), that was one of his biggest regrets, that this guy was never sentenced,” Berosh said.
The assistant prosecutor and Cozart’s defense attorney have both since died. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Cozart has an attorney in Oklahoma.
“We have notified the victims that we’ve picked him up. Needless to say, they were very, very surprised. They had given up hope that he would ever be found,” Berosh said. The Associated Press does not generally identify victims of sexual crimes.
Cozart was awaiting extradition to Pennsylvania in the Muskogee County Jail.
Cozart faces at least 15 years in prison because he was convicted of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with each child. That crime carries a mandatory minimum five-year prison term. He might also be charged for eluding authorities, at some point, Berosh said.
“Let me put it this way, we will ask for more” than 15 years in prison, Berosh said. “Only because he lived his life for 20 years and the victims had to live their lives for 20 with this uncertainty.”
“Right now, our main focus is to get him, have him sentenced, make him answer to the charges he was convicted of,” Berosh said. “And, to put it bluntly, we’ve got him.”
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