(Louisville, Kentucky) A man who admitted beating
and strangling to death a gay man and then stuffing his body into a suitcase and
dumping it in a lake has been found guilty of manslaughter not murder as the
prosecution had sought.
Joshua Cottrell, 23, showed no emotion as the
verdict was read. The jury also found him guilty of theft by unlawful
taking of greater than $300 and tampering with physical evidence.
Jurors deliberated for nearly nine hours
returning with their verdict late Monday night.
Throughout the trial Cottrell's defense painted
the accused as being a victim who killed Richie Phillips, 36, in Cottrell's
Elizabethtown motel room after Phillips made an unwanted sexual advance on him.
"This kid is not a killer," defense
attorney Scott Drabenstadt said in closing arguments. "This kid is not a
robber. Yes, he did some very inappropriate things with the body. ... But what
set it all in motion, he was privileged to do. What set it in motion were the
actions of a 36-year-old man."
Drabenstadt said it was Phillips' actions that
"led to a chain of events that caused his death." Drabenstadt said
that Cottrell hit Phillips as hard as he could, as many times as he could, and
would do it again if given the chance. It was his rights Drabenstadt told the
jury because under Kentucky law he was entitled to fight back to protect himself
from being raped or sodomized, using deadly force if necessary.
But, prosecutor Chris Shaw said in his closing
statements that Cottrell harbored a "steaming anger" toward gay men
and lured Phillips to his motel room to kill him.
Shaw said Cottrell's "intent all along was to
kill," and dispose of the body in a "cold, calculated" scheme to
"get away with murder."
During the trial Cottrell's adoptive aunt, Wendy
Cottrell McAnly testified that Cottrell confessed to her that he had planned
McAnly said her nephew told her that he killed
Phillips on purpose and that he had lured Phillips into his motel room where he
hit him, and then strangled him with a duffel bag. (story)
The suitcase containing Phillips' was found
floating on Rough River Lake last June by two fishermen.
Shaw had sought a murder conviction which would
carry the death penalty. The jury gave Cottrell the lightest verdict it
could. The 12 jurors could have found him guilty of murder, reckless homicide,
Neither the prosecution nor Phillip's family
would comment on the verdict. The sentencing phase of the trial begins on