A Savannah man who allegedly faked his own disappearance to avoid an Effingham County court date couldn’t make a June 1 court date because he’s in federal custody.
Cody William Magee faces charges of computer pornography, criminal attempt to commit a felony, possession of a firearm during commission of a crime and two counts of failure to appear in Effingham County, stemming from his May 2015 arrest. He now faces federal charges for an incident that authorities claim was staged to keep him out of an April court appearance.
Magee and his wife Chelsea have been charged with causing the U.S. Coast Guard to attempt to save lives where no help is needed. They were indicted May 4 by a federal grand jury.
The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Georgia filed a formal complaint against Magee on April 20.
According to the federal complaint, Magee’s wife Chelsea Magee went to the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department’s Precinct 4 on April 18 and said her husband had not returned from kayaking the night before. She told police her husband left their Savannah home around 7:30 the night before with his 12-foot kayak loaded onto their 2007 Mercury Mariner and headed for Tybee Island’s Lazaretto Creek boat ramp. She said her husband was supposed to go kayaking for about an hour and then come home.
Officers at that precinct relayed the report to Precinct 5 officers on Tybee, who then headed for the boat ramp. They found the vehicle but did not find any trace of Magee or his kayak. SCMPD officials sent their water units to search for the missing Magee. The U.S. Coast Guard commander center in Charleston, S.C., was alerted, and Coast Guard helicopters and boats were sent in search and rescue efforts.
SCMPD and Coast Guard Investigative Services investigators began to dig into Magee’s background and found he was arrested May 27, 2015 as part of the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office “Summer Wave” sweep of online child predators. Magee was scheduled to appear in Effingham County Superior Court on April 18.
Investigators and officers asked Magee’s wife if he may have staged his disappearance, and she said he had not but it was “a slim possibility.”
A passer-by found the kayak and paddle, and the proximity of the paddle to the kayak suggested to officers that whoever was in the kayak or fell out of it had been far offshore. Magee’s wife went to SCMPD police barracks for another interview, and officers found she had deleted text messages from her husband as late as 9:40 p.m. April 17. She was questioned about her earlier statement she had not heard from husband since an hour before on that night.
She said she routinely deleted text messages but after more questioning, she admitted she and her husband concocted a plan for his disappearance and avoid his court date. She told officers they believed he was in a “lose-lose” situation and that he faced a lengthy prison term. She told police they agreed her husband planned to put the kayak in the water, swim back to shore and leave in another vehicle. They traveled to Florida and South Carolina and visited online retailers to purchase swim fins, diving masks, a wet suit, a GPS, a tent, a flashlight and headlamp, nutrition bars and the kayak.
In the missing person alert, officers noted Magee also may have a rifle and a .45-caliber pistol. Oklahoma City Police Department officers found Magee’s car April 20 around 2 a.m.
Magee, from Savannah, was arrested last year and an Effingham County grand jury indicted him July 17. Authorities allege he arrived at an arranged meeting spot in order to connect with who he thought was a 15-year-old girl for sex. Magee also had a .380-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun on him when he was arrested. When he failed to appear before Judge William Woodrum in April, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.