It was 11:45 pm on February 1, 1991, and business was winding down at the Hardee’s restaurant in Franklin, Tennessee. The intercom crackled to life as a car pulled up to the drive-thru, and a male voice ordered a roast beef combo. Peggy Cox, who was working at the drive-thru window that night, cheerfully told the customer his total and asked him to pull up to the window. Peggy nodded to her 20-year-old son, Jude, who was working in the kitchen; he immediately started putting the man’s order together. Suddenly, Jude heard two gunshots; he then watched in horror as his mother collapsed to the ground.
Struggling to comprehend what had just happened, Jude raced to his mother’s side, crouching to stay below the level of the drive-thru window. He had no idea if the person who had shot his mother was still in the drive-thru or not, and he didn’t want to become the next target. He collapsed on the floor next to his mother and desperately called her name, but was unable to get a response from her.
The restaurant’s manager, who had been working on a deposit inside the office, heard the gunshots and ran into the kitchen to see what had taken place. He saw Peggy lying motionless on the ground and immediately grabbed for a phone so he could call 911. He pleaded with the dispatcher to send an ambulance, but he had a sinking feeling that Peggy was beyond saving. It looked as if she had been shot in the head, and she didn’t appear to be breathing.
A police officer arrived within minutes; as soon as he parked his patrol car, he saw Jude come flying out of the restaurant towards him. Jude was hysterical and begging for help; he kept repeating that someone had shot his mother.
An ambulance pulled into the parking lot as the officer raced inside, where he was met with a grim scene. Paramedics pushed past the officer and the employees, working feverishly to try and stabilize Peggy for the ride to the hospital. Unable to find a pulse, they began to administer CPR as they loaded Peggy into the ambulance. She was raced to Williamson Medical Center, where doctors did everything they could to try and save her life, but their efforts were futile. A bullet had penetrated through Peggy’s brain stem, most likely kil*ling her instantly.
Detectives were immediately dispatched to the crime scene, but it was clear from the start that this wasn’t going to be an easy case to solve. There had been no customers inside the restaurant when the shooting took place, and Jude hadn’t seen the person who shot his mother. All he could tell investigators was that he heard a man’s voice on the intercom just moments before shots rang out; he assumed that the person who ordered the food was the ki*ller, but had no way of knowing for sure.
Researchers were able to find several people in the area who had been outside when the shots were fired. None of them could give any information about the suspect, but they did say that they saw a small car, maybe a compact car, speed out of the drive-thru right after the shots were fired. After that, the car went north on Interstate 65 and kept going fast until it was no longer.
At the time of Peggy’s m*urder, there were only 48 officers in the Franklin Police Department. They had no idea what happened. When Peggy’s mur*der happened in 1991, it was the only mu*rder that happened in Franklin. Because of this, the police department didn’t have much experience investigating mu*rders. Still, they were determined to find the person who did the horrible crime.
Detectives had a hard time figuring out why Peggy was ki*lled. Armed thieves often target fast food restaurants, but Peggy’s kil*ler didn’t ask for money before he k*illed her. It looked like someone was after Peggy, but the police couldn’t find anyone who might have wanted her d*ead, and she wasn’t even supposed to work that night. She was supposed to have the day off for her 49th birthday, but she was working to cover a coworker’s shift.
Peggy’s background was looked into in great detail by detectives, but they found no evil in her closet. She got married to a man she met at a church event when she was in her early twenties, and they had three children together. Her husband had been in a terrible car accident in 1973 that left him in a persistent vegetative state. Peggy became his main caregiver. He died in 1983, and Peggy didn’t seem interested in dating afterward. Instead, she focused on raising her three children. She was a great mom who did everything she could to make sure her kids had everything they needed. Her kids were her whole world.
Since 1987, Peggy has worked at Hardee’s. One of her daughters and her son would later decide they also wanted to work there. Wantree, her daughter, quit Hardee’s because she got a job at a nearby K-Mart, but Jude, her son, stayed. Jude loved spending time with his mother and thought of her as his best friend. He graduated from high school a few years before she was k*illed, but chose to stay at home because he liked being with her.
Peggy loved her job at Hardee’s, and everyone there loved her. People called her “Miss Peggy,” and many of her teenage coworkers thought of her as like a second mother. She had always been like a mother to the friends of her own kids. Many of their friends would drive through the Hardee’s drive-thru just to say hi to her when she was working.
When she wasn’t at work or spending time with her now-grown children, Peggy could usually be found at some sort of church function. She was a devout Catholic who never missed the 8:30 am mass on Sunday mornings, and she assisted at many different church events.
The more detectives learned about Peggy, the less her mur*der made sense. She truly had no enemies, and she certainly wasn’t living any kind of high-risk lifestyle. There were no angry ex-husbands or violent ex-boyfriends lurking in the background; investigators were unable to find a single person who had anything negative to say about Peggy. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body; there was no way she could have been targeted for mur*der.
Detectives continued to search for a possible motive, but they were unable to find one. The best they could come up with was a potential armed robbery gone very wrong; it was possible that the ki*ller had intended to simply brandish a gun at Peggy and demand money out of the cash register only to have the gun accidentally go off as he pulled up to the window. This could explain why no words were spoken before shots were fired.
The investigation was hampered by the lack of any real evidence. Except for the bullets that were fired, the kil*ler left nothing behind. There were no witnesses who had actually seen the suspect, and he left no DNA behind. All police had to go on was a vague description of a compact car as the possible vehicle involved. It wasn’t much to go on, and the investigation soon went cold. The Franklin Police Department refused to let the case languish in the cold case files, however, and they reviewed it often.
In 2011, Franklin Police Detective Darren Barnes took over as the lead investigator on the case, and he was determined to obtain justice for Peggy and her family. In 2013, he presented the case to the Vidocq Society in Philadelphia, an elite group of experts that offers help for investigators trying to solve cold cases. Although officials have not commented on any specific recommendations made by the Vidocq Society, they did state that the group advised them to put their case out on social media. The Franklin Police Department did so, and several new leads have been generated as a result.
In 2014 the city of Franklin offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Peggy’s ki*ller; city officials noted that Peggy had been extremely special to many Franklin residents, and both her family and the city of Franklin deserved to know who was responsible for taking Peggy away from them. In 2017, the reward was raised to $25,000; although the case remains unsolved, detectives are optimistic that they will one day get the information they need to finally identify the murd*erer.
Peggy Cox was 49 years old when she was mur*dered in 1991. She was a hardworking, widowed mother of three who adored her children and had a cheerful demeanor that made everyone who met her want to be her friend. She liked to read romance novels and was enamored with Sean Connery. Her life was cut short in a senseless act of violence that orphaned her three children and deprived her four grandchildren of ever getting to meet her. If you have any information about Peggy’s mur*der, please contact the Franklin Police Department at 615–794–2513. The FBI is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Peggy’s ki*ller.