Detroit man sentenced in Christmas Eve carjacking, murder of local musician

Anthony Tolson was 33

By John Steckroth - Editor

DETROIT - A Detroit man was sentenced Thursday in the Christmas Eve carjacking and murder of a local musician and father.

Charles Cox, 33, was found guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder, carjacking, armed robbery, being a felon in possession of a firearm and felony firearms violations.

He was sentenced to life without parole on both murder convictions, 500 to 1000 months on both the carjacking and armed robbery convictions, 40 to 60 months for being a felon in possession of a firearm and 5 years for the felony firearm conviction.

Cox, along with Darnell Gene-Arthur Young, 19, carjacked and murdered Anthony Tolson, a Detroit bassist and father of three, on Christmas Eve. Tolson was 33.

Young pleaded guilty in June to second-degree murder and felony firearms. He was sentenced to 33 to 60 years in prison on the murder conviction and two years for the felony firearms conviction.

The full sentencing is available below.

Christmas Eve carjacking, murder

Tolson spent his last hours performing at a church service on Christmas Eve. He was a renowned bass player who traveled the world with R&B’s Ne-Yo and appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “Saturday Night Live.”

He spent a lot of time with the church and was only weeks from becoming an ordained minister at Central Baptist Church in Detroit.

Tolson was driving to his mother’s house after the Christmas Eve service when he was carjacked and fatally shot. His mother and three children, ages 7, 13, and 14, were waiting for him. His mother was greeted by Detroit police at 7 a.m. Christmas Day.

“They snatched him out of the car,” Allison Tolson, Anthony Tolson’s mother, said. “All they had to do was leave him. Take the car. Everything in that car is replaceable. Cars are replaceable.”

The carjacking was reported at about 9:30 p.m. at the intersection of Gratiot and State Fair avenues. Tolson’s gray Chevrolet Trailblazer, along with Christmas presents that Tolson was bringing to his three children and his bass, were stolen. The SUV was later found abandoned and torched on the city’s west side.

The crime sparked outrage in the community. Police began a citywide search for the killers. Church groups and volunteers canvassed neighborhoods. Candlelight vigils were held for weeks after the murder. Local musicians held jam sessions in Tolson’s honor.

A GoFundMe account was created to help his three children.

Family speaks at sentencing

Cox maintained his innocence at the sentencing saying that he was convicted before the trial even started.

“I’m sorry for their loss but I’m not the man who did it and I will get back on the field,” Cox said.

The mother of two of Anthony Tolson’s children, Denise Chandler, spoke on behalf of the kids, telling Cox that he destroyed their lives.

“I want you to understand what this tragedy has done to my children,” Chandler said. “What you did that night changed their lives forever. They will never look at Christmas the same again.”

She explained that their son has trouble sleeping and is performing poorly in school since his father was taken from him. She said their daughter is afraid of riding in vehicles for fear of being carjacked.

Anthony Tolson’s cousin, Laquinta Tolson, had harsh words for Cox, who stood emotionless in the courtroom.

“Your soul is evil and evil people get what they deserve,” she said to Cox.

Allison Tolson told Cox that his legacy will say that he is a murderer and that he stole from children. She said that her son’s legacy was honorable.

“I will always be his mother, and you have hurt my family to a degree that you will never understand,” Allison Tolson said. "The greatest joy in his life was his children. Even though he played music all over the world, he always came back to his children."

Judge Craig Strong noted Cox's long criminal record and told him that despite the efforts of society to rehabilitate him over the years, Cox has shown no improvement and belongs in prison.

“That car, this motor vehicle was not more valuable than the life of this great man who was a father and was a valuable and contributing member of society,” Strong said.

Cox was sentenced to life without parole on both murder convictions, 500 to 1000 months on both the carjacking and armed robbery convictions, 40 to 60 months for being a felon in possession of a firearm and 5 years for the felony firearm conviction.

Cox said he plans to appeal.

Devan Williams, the man who allegedly drove Cox and Young that night, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and will be sentenced Aug. 24.

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