Courtney Wilkes, Steven Cozzie: Florida’s Death Row Beach Killer Of Missing Teen Spotlighted On ‘Passport To Murder’ On Investigation Discovery

Courtney Wilkes, the Georgia teen who was found dead on a beach in Florida five years ago, will be the latest crime case presented on Investigation Discovery’s Passport To Murder. The episode, titled “Behind The Palms,” will feature the story of a bright-eyed teen who turns up missing inexplicably after traveling to a beautiful beach-side town with her family. But what begins as an innocent afternoon walk later exposes a diabolical killer disguised as a friend.

A Summer Vacation Gone Wrong

It was supposed to be big summer fun for Courtney Wilkes. She looked forward to traveling with her parents while school was out. This time, the family was headed to Florida, where they could relax in their condo and enjoy the beautiful waters, along the Emerald Coast in Seagrove. The Wilkes were excited about the trip, too. However, they had no idea that this would be their last vacation with their 15-year-old daughter, and that they would return to their Lyons, Georgia, home without her.

A Body Discovered

In June, 2011, the body of a white female was found in Seagrove Beach. The body matched the description of the missing teenager from Toombs County, Georgia. The victim was later identified as Courtney Wilkes. An autopsy report confirmed that she had been raped, strangled, and beaten with some sort of stick, according to CBS News. Her body was found in a secluded nature area near the beach.

“The teen was killed by blunt force trauma and there was evidence of struggle.”

Hours earlier, Courtney Wilkes’ parents had reported her missing after she went to go for a walk with a boy that she met while vacationing in Florida. The boy turned out to be a 21-year-old man named Steven Cozzie from Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

Courtney Wilkes’ parents told detectives that Steven Cozzie befriended the family. A local stated that Cozzie first befriended Courtney’s brother, and that the Wilkes’ believed that Cozzie was a teenager who lived nearby. The truth was that Steven Cozzie was homeless and sleeping at a makeshift campsite after his parents kicked him out of their home due to his disturbing behavior.

The Arrest

Investigators arrested Steven Cozzie and charged him with the Georgia teen’s death. At trial, his best friend testified that Cozzie confided in him about the murder and even showed him the dead girl’s body. One neighbor remembered seeing Steven and a girl walking along the beach area just hours before the killing, according to WJHG.

“‘I had seen him walking on 30A, walking west towards Seaside and then about an hour after that I saw him walk past my front door with a girl in a bikini,’ says one woman who has requested to remain anonymous. I wonder what I could have done if I had known. She was still alive when I saw them… I’m just so glad they caught him.”

At the time of Courtney Wilkes’ death, locals in the area took to the SoWal forum to discuss the crime case.

“The family was staying at BeachCrest Condos and the girls brother was befriended by (possibly recently laid off) employee of the beach chair and umbrella company that services that complex.”

Those who knew Steven Cozzie from school and around the area had this to say about him.

  • He was creepy.
  • He was involved in many fights on the school bus.
  • Cozzie liked younger girls.
  • It was believed that he was mentally ill.
  • He wrote about his sad life story on his MySpace page before it was deleted.
  • Steven Cozzie, along with his mother and stepfather, have experience in paranormal investigations and ghost hunting. His mother is a professed Wiccan, according to ScaredMonkeys and Geocities.

A Florida judge found Steven Cozzie’s crime particularly gruesome and evil. He was sentenced to die and is currently on Florida’s Death Row. According to Find A Grave, Courtney Wilkes was buried at the family farm.

Passport To Murder focuses on murder cases that have occurred on exotic lands, foreign countries, and U.S. beach towns that attract tourists from all over the world. The idea behind the show is most tourists travel and vacation in places where they plan to relax and soak up the sun. However, without any idea of what will happen next, the tourists live their worst nightmare after they are murdered at the chosen destination. ID’s Passport To Murder has recently featured the following cases.

Watch Passport To Murder: “Behind The Palms” this tonight at 10/9 p.m. Central on Investigation Discovery (ID). In previous episodes, Passport To Murder has featured the murders of American tourists Mark Kilroy and Sheila Von Wiese.

[Photo by Alan Diaz/AP File]