Two teens indicted for capital murder

Prosecutor mulling death penalty option

Two Rockdale-area teens were indicted for capital murder Thursday by a Milam County Grand Jury, a procedure which could lead to a death penalty trial.

Prosecutor Kerry Spears said she has not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty in the cases of 19-year- old Brandon Charles Cotton and Tanner Aaron Baker, 18.

They are charged w ith the shotgun slaying of 50-year-old Sandra “Sandy” Phillips at her San Gabriel area home April 25.

Cotton was a Rockdale resident and Baker lived on a Burleson County rural road.

Spears said she would make a decision after studying the case and the two teens’ histories. Spears said, according to state legal guidelines, all prosecutors qualify to handle capital murder cases.

SHOTGUN— Sheriff David Greene said Mrs. Phillips’ body was discovered by her husband, Michael, when he returned to their home in the 7300 block of FM 486 af ter work ing in Rockdale.

Greene said the house had been burglarized and Mrs. Phillips’ white Ford Mustang had been driven away.

Rockdale police stopped a vehicle matching that description minutes later at the Rockdale Cefco and arrested Baker.

Cotton was then identified as the other suspect and was taken into custody by the sheriff’s department at Sunny’s convenience store in Rockdale.

BURGLARY—Both teens are Rockdale High School dropouts.

Investigators theorized theft of the Mustang was the motive for the incident which they termed a “home invasion.”

Greene said it appeared Mrs. Phllips answered the door, “was shot pretty quickly after that, then shot again.”

He said the teens confessed to killing Phillips, whom they did not know.

The crime is classified as capital murder because it occurred during commission of another felony.

EXECUTION—Death penalty cases are rare in the Milam County justice system but they do occur.

On Nov. 10, 1993, Anthony Quinn Cook, 34, was executed in connection with the murder of law student David Van Tassel in a roadside park north of Cameron.

Robert Brian Moore is serving a 50-year sentence in connection with that crime.

Van Tassel, 35, was abducted from an Austin hotel where he had just completed a review for a State Bar of Texas exam.

He was a student at the University of Texas Law School.

Van Tassel was driven to the park, just inside the Milam County line, and shot four times in the head.

SENTENCES—In all, there are currently 14 persons serving sentences ranging from 20 years to life for murders committed in Milam County.

See box.


Life—Gordon Currin, Ben Contreras, Tremain Tunstall. 60 years—Jerry Wooden. 55 years—Eddie Lerma. 50 years—Robert Moore. 40 years—Trayvonce Wright, Juan Rodriguez, Rashid Muhammad. 35 years—Pete Borgas. 30 years—Timothy Winters, Tony Garrett. 20 years—Raymond Scott, Aaron Hammond Jr.

Source—The Texas Tribune website

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