"I'll never be better," McCullough adds. "I'm just lucky to be alive."
Though Cox insists he didn't lay a finger on McCullough, he admits he helped carry him away when the beating was over. "I didn't know they beat him up that bad," Cox says. "I thought they just beat his ass and knocked him out."

The killing occurred around 5:15 a.m. on July 4. It was, Sean Cox claims, an act of self-defense.

After dragging McCullough away, Cox says, he and the others returned to the apartment and continued to drink and get high. Not long afterward, however, Trevor Herasingh discovered that something was missing from his bedroom, according to several witnesses.

Cox claims someone had stolen $280 in rent money that Herasingh had hidden under a mattress. Other witnesses, including Sarah Osness and Dubois Jones, told police the missing item was a packet of cocaine.

According to witnesses, Herasingh ordered each of his guests searched. Sarah Osness testified at Cox's preliminary hearing that all the men were forced to strip down to their underwear. The women, though spared that indignity, were checked as well. "We just took off our jackets and everything," Osness testified. "We were just patted down, and that was it."

(Herasingh denied to police that he'd strip-searched his guests and also denied that he and the others had been drinking heavily that night. "I don't know why I am caught up in the middle of this," he told a detective.)

The search was unsuccessful. But Herasingh suspected Yarbrough was the thief, according to both Cox and Sarah Osness, even though the search proved that Yarbrough, like the others, had no cash or cocaine on him.

As tempers started to flare, says Cox, he took Herasingh aside and suggested that he shut down the party for the night. "I was like, `Hey, the best thing right now is to just send everybody home. I don't know where the money's at. We can look for it [later], but not with everybody here.'"

Cox says Herasingh instead decided to walk to a nearby 7-Eleven for cigarettes, taking his brother Keith and his pet Rottweiler with him. The guests began to leave. Paul Martinez, Ervin Schwegmann, Yarbrough and Jones walked back toward the alley behind the house, Cox says. Cox stood in the doorway with a pillow and blanket in his hands, looking out into the street.

"I was about to just relax and kick back and go to sleep for a while, 'cause everybody was on their way home and stuff," Cox says. "And then Ervin came running up. I guess Paul and them [Yarbrough and Jones] had had a confrontation in the alley. So Ervin came running up to the door; he was like, `Grab the gun, grab the gun--meet Paul in the alley.' So I grabbed the Mac-11 and I ran out."

Cox says he saw Dubois Jones with a .44 Magnum in his hands near the mouth of the alley where it opens onto Cedar Street. Paul Martinez and Yarbrough were standing near each other a few yards away. Cox approached the pair.

"What's going on?" Cox says he demanded.
"They was trying to jump me," Martinez said. "They was trying to beat me up."
Cox claims he turned to Yarbrough and began to question him about the money that had been stolen from Herasingh earlier. "I was like, `Where's our money, Bobby?' Did you take our money?' And he was like, `Awright, yeah, I took your money, it's in my house, I'll go get it for you.'

"And then right after he said that, Dubois Jones had come back and he shot a round at me. And I ducked, and I just started shooting."

Cox claims that Yarbrough was shot by accident. According to the Denver coroner's report, he was struck five times. Two bullets caught him in the left side of the head, passed through the brain and exited through the other side of the skull. Three hit him in the back and did extensive damage to his heart, liver, lungs and other vital organs before leaving through the wall of the chest. Two other bullets punctured Yarbrough's clothing but caused no injury.

"I ain't one to harm people," Cox says. "I'm not really violent or nothing. But when my life's in danger, I just react, you know? `Cause I've been in a lot of fights where I got jumped and stuff, and usually came out on top. I ain't going to just sit there and let someone beat my ass or anything."

Cox's story differs from those of other witnesses in important details. Sarah Osness, for instance, testified at the preliminary hearing that she never saw Ervin run up to Cox in the doorway. Osness, who was sitting in her car at the time, said she saw Martinez, Cox and Bobby Yarbrough standing alone in the alley. Suddenly, she said, Cox fired a gun at Yarbrough. "He got shot, and he fell," Osness testified. "That's all I saw."

Jones told police he never fired his weapon at Cox. By his account, he and Yarbrough went back to the alley because someone at the party had suggested going to a motel. Cox was following closely behind the two as they walked down Cedar Street, the Mac-11 in his hand and the assault rifle he had taken from the house slung over his shoulder and covered with a blanket, Jones said. As they reached the alley, Jones told police, he heard Cox say, "You motherfucker" and heard the metallic click of a gun being cocked. Jones said he took off running--and then heard several shots.

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