In May of last year, Robert Cotter shot and killed his father Patrick Cotter, 53, and his brother Brian Cotter, 15, in their mobile home in Fresno. He then called law enforcement to report the deaths, but he said that his brother was responsible.
Superior Court Judge James Kelley said during Cotter’s sentencing hearing, “I don’t know what his issue was with his father that caused him to want to commit homicide, but to execute his brother?” KFSN reported. “It was cold-blooded murder of a kid that had done nothing wrong.”
Inconsistencies in Mr Cotter’s version of events became clear when investigators found that Brian’s wounds didn’t match that of someone who had died of suicide.
Fresno County Deputy District Attorney Daniel Walters said in court, “he called 911 and he blamed his murders as a murder-suicide perpetrated by his 15-year-old brother with autism spectrum disorder”.
“His brother woke up, started to run away and he pulled his brother by the collar and shot him in the head,” Mr Walters said.
Cotter was arrested in July of last year. The Fresno Police Department said his story was“inconsistent with the physical evidence obtained during the investigation”.
Authorities also found that Cotter conducted extensive online research ahead of the murders, searching for how to make a killing appear self-inflicted, and how thoroughly the police would investigate an apparent suicide.
Fresno Police said Cotter confessed to the murders when he was confronted with the inconsistencies in his account of what happened. Police said he made “admissions, to detectives, about planning and acting out the brutal murders”.
But to figure out a motive has been difficult.
Cotter’s aunt, whose name hasn’t been reported, told KFSN in September of last year that the family is “trying to figure out why this happened”.
“What we could’ve done to stop it. And I love Robbie and I hope he knows he’s loved. But we just don’t know why,” she said.
During the sentencing hearing, defence lawyer Emily Takao said that Cotter “had a difficult upbringing”.
“I think it would be characterized as traumatic,” she added.
At first, Cotter pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but changed it to no contest in late May of this year, the Fresno Bee reported.
When asked by the judge if he was confused about what the change would mean, Cotter is reported to have said that he wasn’t.
He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was also sentenced to an additional 50 years to life in prison for his use of a gun to kill his family.
Teen jailed for life after blamimg his autistic brother after killing his family