Tanner Aaron Baker (left) and Brandon Charles Cotton (Jail photos)
CAMERON (January 17, 2014) A Caldwell man pleaded guilty Friday to murder in the April 25, 2011 shotgun death of a retired nurse.
District Judge John W. Youngblood sentenced Tanner Aaron Baker, 21, to 60 years in prison for his role in the shotgun slaying of Sandra Phillips, who was shot to death during a home invasion at her residence just off Farm-to-Market 486 in San Gabriel.
The second defendant, Brandon Charles Cotton, 21, avoided a possible death sentence when he pleaded guilty on Nov. 13, 2013, to capital murder in exchange for a sentence of life without parole.
Milam County District Attorney Bill Torrey said evidence in the case showed Cotton actually pulled the trigger of the shotgun.
"The victim's family consented to and approved of the plea agreement," Torrey said Friday.
The victim's husband, Michael Phillips, a former Ithaca, New York Police Officer, was present for the plea Friday and addressed the defendant after sentencing," Torrey said.
Cotton's plea came on the seventh day of jury selection for a trial in which he could have been sentenced to death if convicted.
"The defendant (Cotton) probably saw the writing on the wall and could see that the people of Milam County take this kind of violent crime very seriously," Torrey said at the time.
"The victim's family consented to and approved of the plea agreement and they are relieved that they won't be forced to endure the endless appeal process, both state and federal, they won't have to endure a trial, and they can finally have some closure," he said.
Phillips' husband discovered his wife's body when he returned home from work the day of the murder.
Investigators determined that the white 2011 Ford Mustang that belonged to the victim was missing.
Police officers spotted the vehicle in Rockdale at a local convenience store and arrested Baker who was found driving the car.
Cotton was found about an hour later at a different convenience store and officers arrested him.
Church friends who were at the Phillips residence on the afternoon of the murder told a News 10 reporter the Phillips' have one daughter who is grown and living elsewhere.
They said Sandra Phillips had been working at a local nursing home.