Guin Richie Phillips

Guin Richie Phillips

Guin "Richie" Phillips (1967 – June 17, 2003) was a 36-year-old gay man in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Phillips disappeared on June 17, 2003. His body was found on June 25, 2003, in a suitcase in Rough River Lake.


On June 17, 2003, Phillips was seen having lunch at a restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, with a friend later identified by investigators as 21-year-old Joshua Cottrell.cite web |url= |title=Suspect Named In Case of Body Found in Suitcase |work=WLKY Louisville |date=2003-06-27 |accessdate=2007-07-31] Several days later, his truck and other belongings were found abandoned in southern Indiana. A witness later told police she saw Phillips and Cottrell together in Phillips' truck the same day. That was the last time Phillps was seen alive.

Phillips' mother – Marge Phillips – reported her son missing and told police she feared he had been harmed because he was gay.cite web |url= |title=Family of murder suspect speak out |work=Cincinnati Inquirer |date=2003-08-27 |accessdate=2007-07-31]

Discovery & arrest

On Wednesday, June 25, 2003, two fishermen pulled a suitcase out of Rough River Lake, unzipped it and found Richie Phillips body inside. Phillips was identified by personal items found with the body and a Wildcat tattoo on the shoulder.cite web |url= |title=Missing Man's Body Found In Suitcase In Lake |work=WLKY Louisville |date=2003-06-26 |accessdate=2007-07-31]

On Friday, June 27, 2003, Cottrell, an acquaintance of Phillips', was arrested and charged with Phillips' murder. Prosecutors announced that they would seek the death penalty in the case.cite web |url= |title=Prosecutors Seek the Death Penalty For Suitcase Murder Suspect |work=WLKY Louisville |date=2005-01-05 |accessdate=2007-07-31]

Trial & testimony

Cottrell was arraigned on June 28, 2005, at the Breckinridge County Courthouse, where he pleaded not guilty to charges of murdering Phillips. He was then held on $500,000 bond.cite web |url= |title=Suitcase Murder Suspect Pleads Not Guilty |work=WLKY Louisville |date=2003-07-01 |accessdate=2007-07-31]

In October 2003 Cottrell's trial was moved to Hardin County based on forensic evidence that showed Phillips was most likely killed in Cottrell's Elizabethtown hotel room. The change in jurisdiction delayed the start of the trial.

A canceled check introduced into evidence showed that Cottrell purchased the suitcase six days before the murder. Drops of Phillips' blood were found on the bathroom tiles in the hotel. Cottrell's DNA was also found on a cigarette in Cottrell's truck. Previously investigators were unsure whether Phillips had been been killed at Rough River Lake, where his body was found, or elsewhere.cite web |url= |title=Court Records: Suitcase Murder Suspect Admitted Crimes |work=WLKY Louisiana |date=2004-05-05 |accessdate=2007-07-31]

In May 2004, the trial was further delayed when Judge Henry Bland ordered a continuance after Cottrell's defense attorney filed new discovery documents.cite web |url= |title=Suitecase Murder Trial Delayed for Months |work=WLKY Louisiana |date=2004-05-05 |accessdate=2007-07-31] . The trial got under way in January 2005, at the Hardin County courthouse.

Friend & family testify

Rob Dewitt, a friend who introduced Phillips to Cottrell three years earlier said that Cottrell bought a set of luggage at the Elizabethtown JCPenney. Cottrell told Dewitt that he was planning to travel. Dewitt testified in court that he told Cottrell that Phillips was attracted to him, and that Cottrell said he would "cold-cock" Phillips if he ever made a pass at him. Dewitt also testified that he had never seen Phillips act in an aggressive manner.cite web |url= |title=Cottrell's Cousin Takes the Stand |work=WHAS 11 News |date=2005-01-21 |accessdate=2007-07-31 |last=Zager |first=Eric]

Cottrell's aunt – Wendy McAnly – testified that Cottrell confessed to the crime more than a week earlier, but his family didn't believe him. Cottrell's aunt and cousin testified that he had planned to kill Phillips because he was gay, and had lured Phillips into his hotel room where he hit and strangled him.

McAnly said that Cottrell invited Phillips to his Elizabethtown motel room. When Phillips arrived, Cottrell asked if Phillips liked him without his shirt, and when Phillips said yes and touched him, Cottrell put him in a headlock and choked him.cite web |url= |title=Kentucky murder was bias motivated, suspect's family says |work=The Advocate |date=2003-08-28 |accessdate=2007-07-31]

Cottrell's cousin – Tara Gaddie – testified that arrived at her home in Phillips' truck after disposing of his body in Rough River Lake, and answered "He's gone. He's dead," when she asked him what he'd done. Gaddie also said she never heard Cottrell talk about strangling Phillips or use derogatory terms to describe him.

Cottrell's testimony

In court, Cottrell testified that Phillips came into his motel room uninvited, after he drove Phillips around Elizabethtown looking for a job, tried to kiss him, and attempted to force him into oral sex. Cottrell then put Phillips in a headlock, pulled him to the floor and "started hitting him as hard as I could, as many times as I could."

When he realized Phillips was dead, Cottrell says he panicked and put his body into the suit case he said in court he'd brought to haul his belongings as he drifted between motel rooms and friends houses.cite web |url= |title=Joshua Cottrell Testifies |work=WHAS 11 News |date=2005-01-28 |accessdate=2007-07-31 |last=Zager |first=Eric]

"Gay Panic Defense"

Cottrell's defense attorney employed what is called a gay panic defense, arguing that Phillips' own actions "led to a chain of events that caused his death, " and that Cottrell was within his rights under Kentucky law to fight back to protect himself from being raped, including use of deadly force if necessary. "But what set it all in motion, he was privileged to do," Drabenstadt said. "What set it in motion were the actions of a 36-year-old man."cite web |url= |title=Jury Rejects Murder Verdict in Gay Slaying |work=365Gay.Com |date=2005-02-01 |accessdate=2007-07-31]

Drabestadt may have been referring to a Kentucky "stand-your-ground" law permitting people to use deadly force to protect themselves against death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, and forced sexual intercourse.cite web |url= |title=Deadly force bill adds 3 crimes to lethal-defense list |work=Lexington Herald-Leader |date=2001-02-21 |accessdate=2007-07-31 |last=Cheves |first=John] In February 2001, Kentucky Representative Bob Damron sponsored a bill that would have added "deviant sexual intercourse" to the existing law. The Kentucky House Judiciary Committee amended the measure to replace "deviant sexual intercourse" with "forced sodomy," and clarify its definitions of "force," "threat," and "attempt."cite web |accessdate=2007-07-31 |url= |title=Kentucky considers, expanding, or canceling rights laws |work=Gay Peoples Chronicle |date=2001-03-02 |last=Resnick |first=Eric]

Prosecuting attorney Chris Shaw argued in closing that Cottrell lured Phillips to his room in order to kill him, and then attempted to cover it up in a cold, calculated manner. Shaw added that Phillips' sexual orientation was immaterial in the case, except for Cottrell's "steaming anger" toward gay men. Shaw said that if Phillips made sexual advances Cottrell should have walked away.cite web |url= |title=Cottrell Found Guilty of Lesser Charge | |date=2005 |accessdate=2007-07-31]

Verdict & sentencing

After deliberating for nine hours, the jury returned with its verdict. The jury had the option of finding Cottrell guilty of murder, reckless homicide, or manslaughter. The jury rejected the murder charge and instead found Cottrell guilty of second degree manslaughter, theft by taking of more than 300 dollars, and tampering with physical evidence.

Cottrell was sentenced on March 1, 2005. The jury recommended Cottrell be sentenced to 30 years; 20 for manslaughter, and another ten for theft and tampering with evidence. However, state law limited the judge to sentencing Cottrell to a maximum of 20 years.cite web |accessdate=2007-07-31 |url= |title=20 Years In Kentucky Gay Slaying |work=365Gay.Com |date=2005-03-01]

In Kentucky, committing a crime against someone because of the victim's sexual orientation is considered a hate crime. At sentencing, a judge may deny probation or parole if it's determined that the victim's race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, or religion was a "primary factor" in committing the offense. The prosecution in Cottrell's case did not pursue hate crime charges against him.

Neither the defense nor the victim's family had immediate comment on the verdict or sentencing. One month later Greg Phillips, the victim's brother, told "The Advocate", "I think they were looking at my brother being a homosexual when they made their decision to pick the lesser charge."cite web |url= |title=They asked for it': murderers of gay and transgender people across the country are still blaming the victims, claiming sexual advances can cause homicidal rage. Now prosecutors are joining together to get rid of the "gay panic" defense once and for all |work=The Advocate |first=Michael |last=Lindenberger |date=2005-04-12 |accessdate=2007-07-31]

Cottrell was eligible for parole in July, 2007—2 1/2 years after his conviction.

ee also

*Violence against LGBT people


External links

* [ Richie Phillips Memorial Page]

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