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DA Will Seek Death Penalty For Teen Accused Of Killing Retired Nurse

By: Paul J. Gately Email
By: Paul J. Gately Email
Brandon Cotton (Jail photo)

Brandon Cotton (Jail photo)

CAMERON (February 21, 2013)--A Rockdale teenager will face a possible sentence penalty when he goes on trial for the 2011 shotgun murder of a retired Milam County nurse who was killed during a home invasion.

Milam County District Attorney Bill Torrey told the trial court judge he intends to seek the death penalty when Brandon Charles Cotton, of Rockdale, goes on trial for the April 2011 shooting death of San Gabriel resident Sandra Phillips.

Another Rockdale teenager, Tanner Aaron Baker, is also charged with capital murder in her death.

The retired nurse was shot to death in April 2011 at her home near Farm-to-Market road 486 in Milam County in the San Gabriel community.

District Judge John Youngblood set a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the Milam County Courthouse during which prosecutors and defense attorneys will arrive at a new trial date for Cotton.

Torrey, who just took office I January after he defeated former DA Kerry Spears in last year's general election, said he has not yet decided on whether to seek the death penalty for Baker or to allow Baker to plead guilty to the murder.

Last fall Spears said she would not seek the death penalty for Baker, but Torrey could decide differently.

Texas Assistant Attorney General Jane Starnes is scheduled to assist Torrey in the trial but she has said she has conflicts with another trial in East Texas in May so the earliest trial date for Cotton could be in June.

The trial already has been re-set from October 2012 to January after the lead defense lawyer said he had a conflict on the October date.

Youngblood reset the trial after Waco attorney Russ Hunt, Sr., said he is involved in a capital murder trial in Waco around the same time and asked the Milam County district court to delay Cotton's trial until after the other issue is settled.

Both Cotton and Baker face trial in the April, 25, 2011 death of Sandra Phillips, 50, of San Gabriel, who was gunned down at her home on Farm-to-Market Road 486 during what investigators called a home invasion robbery.

Texas Rangers say Cotton and Baker both have admitted to the murder.

Deputies say the woman's husband discovered her body when he came home from work.

Investigators discovered a 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 Phillips was a former New York police officer and Sandra Phillips had been working at a local nursing home.


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