The bodies of Cord Cox, 23, and his 25-year-old girlfriend, Betheny Mehall, were discovered Sunday afternoon in a vehicle parked on a remote road in Ashtabula County, about 50 miles northeast of Cleveland. Authorities have not named a suspect or person of interest in the killings.
The Ashtabula County Sheriff's Office said it received a call from a passing motorist about 4 p.m. Sunday, notifying them that a motorist in distress was parked by a snow mound on an isolated road in Harpersfield Township. The vehicle was still running when deputies arrived. Inside, they found Cox slouched over the steering wheel and Mehall slumped over on the passenger seat.
Coroner's investigator Richard Mongell said the preliminary autopsy indicates Cox and Mehall each died from a single bullet to the back of the head.
"They were shot from behind, inside the vehicle," Mongell told AOL News. "We believe [the killings] happened sometime Saturday night."
Authorities have ruled out a murder-suicide and do not suspect the killings were committed during a robbery, but they are still trying to determine a motive.
"It looks like a double homicide," Ashtabula County Sheriff William Johnson told The Star Beacon. He also said that solving the crime is "priority No. 1."
Brenneman said that Cox and Mehall were well-known in the community and did not have any known enemies. "Everyone loved them," he said. "Cord and Betheny were inspirational to the young people in this town."
Cox, who was born and raised in nearby Austinburg, was a 2005 graduate of Geneva High School. At the time of his death, he was enrolled in nursing classes at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland.
Interestingly, Cox left a left an ominous message on his Facebook profile in January that read "I'm 23 now but will I live to see 24[?] I don't know my lucks runnin out fool." The quote was reportedly taken from "Gangsta's Paradise," a rap song by music artist Coolio.
Mehall, who was the mother of a 4-year-old son, was a 2003 graduate of the Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School. She was a nursing student at Bryant and Stratton College and worked with Northwest Ambulance District in Ashtabula.
According to Brenneman, Cox and Mehall were very much in love and had been together for about two years. "They were very happy together," he said.
The couple's death comes amid other homicides in small Ohio towns in recent months.
Howard, about 150 miles southwest of Ashtabula, was the scene of a triple homicide in November. Matthew Hoffman, a 30-year-old ex-con and unemployed tree trimmer, murdered Stephanie Sprang, 41, her friend Tina Herrmann, 32, and Herrmann's 11-year-old son, Kody Maynard. The victims were dismembered and stuffed in a 60-foot-tall hollowed-out tree.
The only survivor of the brutal home invasion murders was Herrmann's 13-year-old daughter, who was held captive and sexually assaulted for four days inside Hoffman's home.
On Jan. 6, Hoffman pleaded guilty to 10 felonies, including aggravated murder, burglary, kidnapping and rape. He was sentenced to life without parole.
In Holland, approximately 170 miles west of Ashtabula, authorities found the bodies of Johnny Clarke, 21, and his girlfriend, Lisa Straub, 20, with bags over their heads and their hands bound with duct tape on Jan. 31. Police say the couple were victims of a homicide. According to the preliminary autopsy result, they died from asphyxiation.
The home was ransacked, but there were no signs of forced entry. Police suspect that the attackers either knew the victims and walked into the house via an open door or had asked the occupants to allow them entry.
The case remains unsolved.
"What they want right now, more than anything, is for anyone who might have any information to contact the sheriff's department," he said. "That's the biggest thing. They are asking for any possible leads they can get right now because they want to catch the animal responsible."
In the meantime, people have been sharing their condolences online at a Facebook page titled "RIP Cord Cox & Betheny Mehall." There, text, video and photo tributes are being shared as loved ones prepare to say goodbye to the two young people during separate funerals scheduled for this week.
"Cord and Betheny always did things together," Brenneman said. "They were a team in life, and they went as a team in death. I don't think either one of them would have wanted it any other way."