Death penalty sought for one

DA will seek life for second teen murder suspect
Reporter Editor

Cotton Cotton Mi lam C ount y prosecutor Kerry Spears announced Tuesday afternoon that she will seek the death penalt y in next year’s trial of Brand on Cotton, charged with capital murder in the April 25, shotgun slaying of 50-year- old Sandra “Sandy” Phillips of San Gabriel.

Spears a lso announced she would not seek the death pena lt y for Ta nner Baker, also charged with Mrs. Phillips’ murder.

Under Texas law the only sentencing option in a capital murder case in which the prosecutor does not seek the death penalty is life in prison without parole.

Investigators have said Cotton was the shooter.

Cotton was 19 and Baker 18 when they were arrested within hours of the slaying.

Cotton lived at 1507 Alcoa and Baker at 3167 Burleson County Road 232. Both are Rockdale High School dropouts.

Spears’ brief statement, released Tuesday afternoon, is likely to be her only word on the case until its tried in 20th District Court.

Baker Baker “Because these cases are pending, the State’s attorney cannot comment on nor answer questions regarding these decisions,” she said.

Attorneys for the defendants have said the pair will be tried separately, beginning next April.

Jack Holmes of Temple and Russ Hunt of Waco are representing Cotton.

Baker is represented by Norman Lanford of Cameron and John Duer of Georgetown

MUSTA NG—Investigators for the Milam County Sheriff’s Department theorized Mrs. Phillips white 2011 Ford Mustang was the motive for what they termed a “home invasion” of the Phillips home on FM 486.

Sheriff David Greene said Mrs. Phillips was hit twice in the chest w ith blasts from a .12- gauge shotgun.

Greene said it appeared Mrs. Phillips answered the door “and was shot pretty quickly after that.”

Within minutes of the shooting, Rockdale Police Ofc. Adam Assaker stopped a vehicle matching the description of Mrs. Phillips’s Mustang at Cefco and arrested Baker.

Cotton was then identified as the other subject. He was taken into custody, on foot, at Sunny’s Convenience Store in Rockdale.

Greene said the t wo teens confessed to killing Mrs. Phillips, whom they did not know.

Probable cause affidavits filed in JP court in April alleged the tens saw the Mustang while driving around the San Gabriel area an went to the door of the home.

After the shooting, investigators said, the home was burglarized, Mrs. Phillips wallet and car keys were taken and two suspects left for Rockdale in separate vehicles.

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

The last execution in connection with a Milam case was 18 years ago.

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.

TEENS—Death in the Texas Penal System is administered by lethal injection.

According to records compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center, the last teenager to be executed by Texas was 19-yearold Adrian Johnson on April 19, 1962.

Executions of teens were fairly common through the first half of the 20th Century.

The youngest person executed in Texas since 1900, and perhaps ever, is believed to have been 15-year-old Federico Sanchez on March 3, 1915.

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