A prosecutor in Hardinsburg, Kentucky, said robbery, not hate, was the motive behind the killing of a
man whose body was found stuffed in a suitcase floating in a lake. "I have found no reliable, credible evidence at this time that suggests this was a hate crime," Breckinridge County Commonwealth's Attorney Kenton Smith said Wednesday. A Kentucky State Police detective testified Tuesday at a pretrial hearing that he believed Joshua W. Cottrell killed Richie Phillips because Phillips was gay. A Breckinridge County grand jury charged Cottrell, 21, of Litchfield, in the death of Phillips, 36, of Rineyville. Cottrell was indicted on charges of murder, first-degree robbery, tampering with physical evidence, and being a persistent felony offender.
Fisherman on Rough River Lake discovered Phillips's body on June 25, eight days after he was reported missing. Under Kentucky's three-year-old hate crimes law, a judge can determine at sentencing whether bias against the victim's race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, or religion was a primary factor in committing the offense. If so, probation can be denied or parole can be denied or delayed. Cottrell is being held on $500,000 cash bond. Smith said he will present the case as a robbery but is considering whether to seek capital punishment.