California pastor cleared of murder breaks his silence: 'My faith in God got me through this'

CBS13 video screenshotRobert Cox

Las Vegas prosecutors dropped all charges against youth pastor Robert Cox on Friday, enabling him to shed light on a June 2013 incident that led to a man's death.

Cox reportedly admitted he pushed Link Ellingson, causing Ellingson to fall and hit his head. He died six months later. The circumstances surrounding the physical confrontation are in dispute, however.

Cox, a Place of Refuge Church pastor, was visiting Las Vegas with his wife and members of the congregation on 13 June, 2013, and had dinner at Four Kegs sports bar. Upon leaving, Cox said the group was approached by a stranger and was threatened.

"[He] started cussing at us and saying things like I'm going to [expletive] kill you," Cox told CBS13. "He grabbed me by the neck and punched me in the face."

Cox, 35, said that members of his party tried to break up the fight, but Ellingson tried to fight them as well. That's when the Manteca, California pastor said he jumped back into the fracas, and pushed Ellingson.

"Then he fell down and hit his head on the curb," he said.

Ellingson, 55, was knocked unconscious, and soon fell into a coma. Internal bleeding led to his death on 15 December 2013. Cox was charged with murder shortly afterwards.

"I was dumbfounded and confused," he said. "To be taken away from your family because you're protecting them and doing what any man, protector, father would do—I couldn't ever make sense of that.

"I knew the truth and I knew the truth would set me free."

Prosecutors announced Friday that there was not enough evidence to proceed with the case against Cox.

"Cox's claim of self-defense is one that we could not overcome," Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told the Review-Journal. "And in the interest of justice, we are not proceeding any further."

"I said, 'Thank you Jesus,'" Cox said of his response after hearing the news. "I didn't have any doubt. I wasn't scared.

"My faith in God got me through this."

The family of Ellingson feels that the prosecutors' decision is an injustice.

"My uncle was the victim," Ellingson's niece, Jayna Hardy, told News10. "I'm definitely disappointed.

"Only two statements were taken when my uncle was rushed to the trauma center and there were a group of 20 people out there."

Wolfson agreed that mistakes were made in the investigation.

"Everybody expected [Ellingson] to survive, come out of his unconsciousness so he could be interviewed," he said. "He never did. ...Because everybody at the time believed it wasn't going to turn out to be someone's death, the investigation in the beginning wasn't as thorough, in hindsight, as it otherwise would have been."

CBS13 reported that Ellingson's wife, Marie, plans to file a civil suit against Cox.