California Man Arrested in 1982 Murder of Woman Whose Head Was Found Floating Down Arizona Side of Colorado River

After an eight-year cold case investigation, police in California think they've got the man responsible for murdering a woman nearly 30 years ago and putting her dismembered head in the Colorado River.

Jimmy Joe Cox, now 71, was arrested yesterday for the 1982 murder of 24-year-old Carole Spearman.

Spearman went missing a few days before Christmas in 1982. Her dismembered hand was found a few days later -- on Christmas Eve -- floating down the Arizona side of the Colorado River just north of Lake Havasu.

Police found her head floating nearby, also on the Arizona side of the Colorado, about a month later.

A spokeswoman for the San Bernadino County Sheriff's Office tells New Times that Cox and Spearman were dating and had been living together at the time of the murder, and Cox was the one who initially contacted police to report Spearman missing.

Since the time of the murder, Cox was labeled a person of interest and previously had been arrested in connection with the crime but was released without charges.

The SBCSO spokeswoman couldn't say what -- if any -- new evidence was discovered that led to the arrest, but says it's often DNA evidence, or re-interviewing witnesses who may have been reluctant to come forward at the time of the crime, that solves cold cases like this.

Cox is being held without bail at Central Detention Center in San Bernardino. He is expected to be arraigned on one murder charge later today.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
James King
Contact: James King