Family of DUI crash victim, ETSU student: ‘We want to pray that we can forgive’


JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)- Wednesday afternoon we found several family members at the apartment of 21-year-old Ray Cox as they gathered his belongings, still stunned by his sudden death.

Cox, an ETSU student just a few credits short of his diploma, was killed earlier this week in a DUI-related crash on Interstate 26.

According to officials at the Johnson City Police Department, Cox, the driver of a 1997 Honda Civic, was struck from behind by a Ford F-150 driven by 29-year-old William Lawson of Kingsport. 

Police said the driver of the Civic slowed down for emergency personnel who were responding to a crash that happened just minutes before.

According to a report, that’s when the Ford F-150 struck the Civic from behind — propelling the Civic down the interstate and into the center cable barriers. 

Cox was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a report. 

On Wednesday while we were speaking to Cox’s family and friends, his roommate Dakota Benton pointed out an itinerary on the refrigerator.

Benton said they were planning to take a trip to New Orleans on Friday, never imagining instead, they would be laying Ray in his final resting place.

“I knew it was just the kind of place that he would have liked because it was so lively, and always something to do…he was always about experiencing something new…I only knew him for four years but that was like losing a brother,” Benton said. 

Ray’s sister, Hope Cox, said they were still coming to terms with his death, wondering why he had to leave this earth so soon.

“You just took someone that was going to be such an amazing…such an amazing kid, he really knew the value of life,” Cox said.

Cox said Ray had a mentality that he wanted to live life to the fullest, and worked hard for where he was in life.

She said one of the things that made them upset is how senseless of a death they feel this was.

“We want everyone to know that decides to get into a vehicle with alcohol influence that it only takes once…as much as we want to yell and scream and just wish the worst, we don’t. We want to pray that we can forgive, and just know that Ray didn’t suffer…and that Ray will be in a better place…God has his plan and that God is going to get us through all of this,” Cox said.

Hope Cox said they will be laying Ray to rest on Friday in Independence, Virginia at Gold Hill Baptist Church.

As for the suspect in this case, William Lawson, he was due in a Washington County, Tennessee courtroom on Wednesday but the judge said Lawson was in the hospital.

He bailed out on a $51,000 bond. 

The judge re-set the case for April. 

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