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Cottrell's cousin takes the stand

05:28 PM EST on Friday, January 21, 2005

By ERIC ZAGER / WHAS11 News

Testimony continued in the murder trial of Joshua Cottrell, who's accused of killing Richie Phillips, stuffing his body into a suitcase and tossing the suitcase into a lake

Jurors had an emotional day Thursday as they saw pictures of Phillips' body and the suitcase in which he was found.

Cottrell's cousin took the stand Friday.

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Tara Gaddie says at first she didn’t believe Joshua Cottrell, a cousin she did not know well, but she sensed something was clearly wrong. She says Cottrell arrived at her door in Elizabethtown in Richie Phillips’s truck after dumping his body in a lake.

“I said just be real with me. What did you do? And he was like, ‘Oh buddy, oh dude’ or something, ‘He’s gone, he’s dead.’

A few days later, Gaddie says while watching television, she realized Cottrell’s story was not manufactured.

“When I seen it on the news, everything was all coming together and I said, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Gaddie testified.

On cross examination by defense lawyer Scott Darbenstadt, Gaddie said Cottrell never talked about strangling Phillips, nor did he use derogatory terms to describe him.

Defense lawyers say they will prove Cottrell did not strangle Phillips. If true, that could possibly spare Cottrell the death penalty.

Web story produced by Jay Ditzer.

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From The Associated Press:

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (AP) -- A man testifying in the murder trial of Joshua Cottrell, who is charged with killing a gay man and stuffing his body into a suitcase, said the defendant warned that he would “cold-cock” the victim if he ever made a sexual advance toward him.

Robert DeWitt, a mutual friend of Cottrell and the victim, Richie Phillips, testified Thursday that he told Cottrell that Phillips was attracted to him.

Cottrell, 23, is charged with killing Phillips in an Elizabethtown motel room in June 2003. Phillips’ body was found stuffed in the suitcase floating in Rough River Lake in Breckinridge County, eight days after Phillips’ family reported him missing.

Prosecutor Susan Streible asked DeWitt on Thursday whether Cottrell ever made any comment about what he would do to Phillips if he ever made a pass at him.

“He said he would knock him out or cold-cock him,” DeWitt replied.

DeWitt also testified that he had never seen Phillips behave in an aggressive manner.

Also testifying Thursday was April Wagner, a friend of Cottrell who identified the suitcase Phillips’ body was found in as “looking like” a set Cottrell had purchased in early June 2003.

Wagner, who said she continued to correspond with Cottrell as he awaited trial, gave Cottrell a ride to his motel the day he bought the luggage, and said that had been several days before Phillips went missing.

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Information from: The News-Enterprise,

http://www.newsenterpriseonline.com

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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