Changes set in DA’s office
Bill Torrey, who replaced three-term prosecutor Kerry Spears Jan. 1, will spend a great deal of his early weeks in office familiarizing himself with the county’s case against Brandon Charles Cotton and Tanner Aaron Baker.
The two are accused of the April 25, 2011, slaying of Sandra “Sandy” Phillips of San Gabriel.
After several delays, jury selection in Cotton’s case had been set to start Monday (Jan. 7) in 20th District Court, but that’s not happening.
“This is just a guess at this point but I’d say the trial might begin early in March,” Torrey told The Reporter. “That’s very tentative. I’ll need to talk to the judge and also to the defense attorneys.”
REVIEW—More may change. Spears had said last year she would seek the death penalty against Cotton—accused of firing a shotgun blast at Mrs. Phillips— and life in prison without parole in Baker’s case.
But the new prosecutor said he will review “everything” in connection with the trials.
“What she (Spears) said may be entirely warranted,” Torrey said. “But I want to familiarize myself with the cases and I want to talk to the victim’s husband.”
NEW STAFF—Torrey is bringing new personnel to the prosecutor’s office.
Rockdale native Doug Kunkel, who has retired after a career with the Department of Public Safety, is coming on board as an investigator.
And Torrey is bringing along a pair of new assistant prosecutors, John Redington and Paul Motz.
SHOOTING—Mrs. Phillips died on the spot after being shot, apparently as she answered the door of her FM 486 home, according to Sheriff David Greene.
According to investigators, she was discovered by her husband after he returned home, also finding their house ransacked and their 2011 Ford Mustang missing.
Within hours of the shooting Baker was arrested after the Mustang was located at a Rockdale convenience store, and Baker shortly thereafter at another Rockdale convenience store.
MURDER—Another Rockdale area murder case is pending. Stephen Daniell, 46, of Rockdale, is accused of the shotgun slaying of Sheila Owens, 49, on May 6.