Guns from murder scene found
Two pistols believed to have been at the scene of last April’s shotgun slaying of a San Gabriel woman in her home unexpectedly turned up in Rockdale on Friday, as police arrested a 39-year-old Rockdale man on a child sex assault charge.
The two .380-caliber pistols—along with a .40 caliber handgun not related to the murder case—were found at the home of Larry Morris “June Bug” Sandles in the course of an investigation which saw him charged in connection with a sex abuse case involving a nine-year-old girl.
“We don’t know how those pistols got to Rockdale,” Chief Deputy Chris White told The Reporter. “We may never know. It just depends on how much those involved end up telling us.”
Sandra “Sandy” Phillips was gunned down shortly after answering her door on April 25, 2011. Tanner Aaron Baker and Brandon Charles Cotton are awaiting trial on capital murder charges.
White said one pistol was taken from the Phillips residence, while the other was stolen from another San Gabriel residence the day of the murder and was believed to have been brought to the murder scene by one of the defendants.
“The pistols, of course, were not used in the shooting,” White said. “Mrs. Phillips was killed with a shotgun.”
Baker and Cotton were arrested at different places in Rockdale on the day of the murder. During the arrests officers recovered some firearms but not the two pistols found on Friday.
“We weren’t looking for the pistols,” Lt. J. D. Newlin of the Rockdale Police Department said. “They were found in a black bag under some furniture in the home during the course of the sex abuse investigation.”
“After we had recovered them and run a routine check on their serial numbers, the link to the Phillips crime was discovered,” Newlin said.
SEARCH—Newlin said the investigation began when the 9-year- old victim reported to police that she had been abused for more than a year.
Newlin and Robert Hollas of Child Protective Services began an investigation and a warrant for Sandles’ arrest was issued.
“Friday morning we received a report that the suspect had attempted to get into a car with the child victim,” Newlin said.
Police rushed to the scene but the suspect fled on foot, triggering a chase and search through northeast Rockdale which lasted most of Friday morning.
“He was sighted numerous times going over fences and through yards,” Newlin said.
Police were unable to locate the suspect but continued to keep an eye on his home, figuring that sooner or later he would return.
Friday afternoon police received what Newlin called “proof that he had either been there or was still inside.”
Police, and Constable Herbie Vaughan with his drug dog, went inside and arrested Sandles “without incident.”
The pistols were found during a search of the home, which also turned up $4,120 in cash, seized by police.
“We also found evidence that crack cocaine had been ‘cooked’ in a microwave,” Newlin said.
Sandles was charged w ith sex abuse of a child, continuous victim, under age 14; unlawful possession of firearm by a felon; tampering/fabricating physical evidence; possession of a controlled substance (less than one gram); and bond surrenders for possession of a controlled substance (less than one gram), evading arrest, possession of marijuana (less than two ounces), possession of marijuana, and two charges of driving while license suspended/invalid.
He rema ins in t he Mila m County Jail this week in lieu of $237,500 bond.