Cowick admits slaying woman, child
By Samantha Lyles
Cephas Cowick, a Darlington man awaiting a death-penalty trial for double murder, has pleaded guilty and accepted a sentence of life without parole.
Cowick, 25, was accused of killing Denise Couplin, 52, and her 9-year-old granddaughter, Deziyah Davis, at their home off Bobo Newsome Highway on July 17, 2016.
Cowick pleaded guilty June 24 during a hearing conducted by video because of COVID-19 concerns.
Fourth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Kernard Redmond recounted details of the crimes for the record.
At approximately 6:20 a.m. on July 17, Cowick was dropped off at Couplin’s home by his wife, Katherine Baucom-Cowick. He entered a downstairs bedroom shared by Couplin and Deziyah.
Cowick shot Couplin once in the head with a .380 handgun, then shot her granddaughter twice in the head.
“It appears that Deziyah woke up at this time and that led to her being shot,” said Redmond.
The bodies were found at around 11:50 a.m. by Couplin’s nephew, who was evidently asleep upstairs with other children during the shootings. Darlington County Sheriff’s Office investigators responded and began to piece together what happened.
Later that day, Couplin’s Cadillac Escalade was found burned on Birdsnest Road.
Redmond recounted that as investigators interviewed witnesses, suspicion quickly fell on Cowick.
Couplin had spoken to multiple people about threatening calls she received from Cowick. Redmond said that Cowick had “done work” for Couplin for almost two years and had even temporarily lived at her home.
DCSD investigators went to the Cowick residence and found a .380 handgun and sent it to SLED for testing. They also found pills taken from Couplin, and the victim’s debit card was found in Katherine Baucom-Cowick’s purse.
Other witnesses told law enforcement that Cowick had discussed robbing Couplin and talked about procuring a weapon for that purpose. A witness also gave investigators a drawing Cowick had made depicting the layout of Couplin’s home.
The plea hearing took place via a WebEx teleconference last week. Fourth Circuit Judge Eugene Griffith explained to Cowick that in pleading guilty, he waived his right to an in-person jury trial and all rights to defend himself at trial. Redmond clarified that Cowick had also agreed to waive his rights to appeal, and also any post-conviction relief challenges based on current information.
Cowick pleaded guilty to eight indictments, including murder, armed robbery, burglary, grand larceny, conspiracy and arson.
“You understand if I accept this plea, the sentence that I will impose?” Griffith asked.
“Yes, sir,” Cowick replied.
Before passing sentence, Griffith offered family members of the victims an opportunity to speak.
Tonay Davis, Couplin’s daughter and Deziyah’s mother, questioned why Cowick should be allowed to live after committing such violent crimes and betraying Couplin’s trust. She recounted how Couplin had taken Cowick into her home when he had nowhere to stay and had even bought diapers for his child.
“This man ain’t got no damn remorse,” Davis said.
Couplin’s oldest son Maurice Royster said his anger over the murders persists to this day. He insisted that Couplin viewed Cowick as a son, and any conflicts between them could have been settled without violence.
“We’re men. You supposed to be stronger than that, bro. You supposed to have more heart than that. This is a woman, this is a baby,” said Royster. “You took the life of a woman who loved you.”
Griffith accepted the plea and levied a sentence of life without possibility of parole on the two murder charges, with concurrent sentences for the other six crimes.
Cowick’s wife remains jailed as she awaits trial.