DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - State prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty against the man accused of murdering an 9-year-old girl and her grandmother in July of 2016. A wrongful death suit filed by the family of the victims claims that the murders were related to drug use and other illegal activity taking place at the grandmother's home.
Cephas Cowick was served with the notice of intent for the state to seek the death penalty on June 6, 2017.
Court documents said certain aggravating circumstances in the murders of Denise Couplin and her granddaughter, Deziyah Chatman, led to this change:
1)The victim of the murder was under the age of 11.
2)The murder was committed for himself and/or another with the purpose of receiving money or a thing of monetary value.
3) There were multiple murder victims (2) during this incident.
Meanwhile, a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Cephas Cowick, his wife Katherine Baucom-Cowick, who is also charged with two counts of murder, and the estate of Denise Couplin.
That suit was filed June 27, 2017, almost one year since the murders happened.
The woman filing the complaint, Tonay Davis, is the mother of 9-year old Deziyah Chatman.
Tonay is also the daughter of Denise Couplin.
The lawsuit alleged had Couplin had "questionable involvement with illegal activity including drug use and associating with individuals who sold and used drugs, including Cephas Cowick and Katherine Baucom."
Tonay said in the lawsuit that, unbeknownst to her, Cowick and Baucom were often invited to Couplin's home to buy or use drugs or other illegal activity.
"Although the exact details of what occurred on Sunday, July 17, 2016, are still under investigation, it is believed that Denise Couplin allowed Cowick and Baucom to enter the home. Apparently some argument or issues developed in regard to the criminal enterprise which led to an argument and altercation leading to Cowick shooting both Denise Couplin and Deziyah Chatman," the lawsuit claims.
The family said they have incurred funeral expenses, loss of services, loss of companionship, loss of comfort and use of intestate's society, anxiety, wounded feelings, shock, grief, mental anguish, suffering, sorrow and bereavement as a result of Deziyah's death.
"The plaintiff respectfully prays for judgement against the Defendants, for an award of actual damages, punitive damages, for the costs of this action, and for such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper," according to the lawsuit.
Both Cowicks have been charged with: two counts of murder; third-degree arson; criminal conspiracy; armed robbery with a deadly weapon; first-degree burglary; grand larceny less than $10,000; and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
According to testimony from the prosecution at a bond hearing after the murders, the couple acted in concert in the deaths of Chatman and Couplin, shooting the grandmother and her granddaughter with a pistol while in a bedroom.
Warrants allege the suspects went to the victims' home for the purpose of robbery.
It was also alleged the Cowicks stole Couplin's vehicle and later burned it in an attempt to conceal their crimes.