Teens in court on capital murder

Pre-trial hearing held; another in January will set date
Reporter Editor

Cotton Cotton Two Rockdale- area teens charged with the shotgun slaying of a 50-year-old San Gabriel woman in April, appeared before District Judge John Young- blood in a pret rial hearing Monday.

Prosecutor Kerry Spears has announced she will seek the death penalty for Brandon Cotton in the murder of 50-year-old Sandra “Sandy” Phillips.

Spears is not seeking the death penalt y for Tanner 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.

Cotton was 19 and Baker 18 when t hey were ar rested in Rockdale within hours of the April 25 slaying.

NEXT STEP—Monday’s hearing was the first time the two had appeared in a court since their original magistration and marked the next step toward a capital murder trial next year.

Baker Baker District Judge John Youngblood ordered another hearing for Jan. 20.

“At that time we’re hoping the judge can set an actual trial date,” Spears told The Reporter following Monday’s hearing.

“A lot will depend upon the defense attorneys’ schedules,” Spears said. “Both of Mr. Cotton’s attorneys are from out of town.”

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.

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

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

Greene said it appeared Mrs. Phillips answered the door at her rural home on FM 486 “and was shot pretty quickly after that.”

Investigators have said Cotton was the shooter.

The Milam County Sheriff’s Department theorized Mrs. Phillips white 2011 Ford Mustang was the motive.

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.

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2011-11-24 digital edition

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