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Kentucky resident convicted of killing gay man could face 30 years

A Hardin County, Ky., man convicted of killing a man and stuffing his body into a suitcase should be sentenced to 30 years in prison, a jury recommended Wednesday. Joshua Cottrell was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, theft, and tampering with physical evidence, after nine hours of deliberation on Monday. Cottrell had argued during a trial that the victim, Guinn "Richie" Phillips, had made sexual advances toward him before the killing. Phillips's body was found in the suitcase in Rough River Lake in Breckinridge County on June 25, 2003.

Hardin County circuit judge Kelly Easton set sentencing for March 1. But prosecutors said Easton would be limited by state statutes and could only sentence Cottrell to a maximum of 20 years on the convictions.

The jury of eight men and four women recommended that Cottrell serve 20 years for the manslaughter conviction. The jury said he should serve another 10 years on top of that for the theft and evidence-tampering convictions. Assistant commonwealth's attorney David Abner said state statutes dictate that the theft and evidence tampering penalties should be served concurrently with that of the manslaughter conviction, a Class B felony. "Statutorily, the judge can only sentence him to [a total of] 20 years," Abner said. A 20-year sentence would make Cottrell eligible for parole in 2 1/2 years, since he has already been incarcerated for about 18 months, prosecutors said.

Phillips's brother, Greg, told reporters Wednesday he felt Cottrell got away with murder and that his brother's homosexuality was a factor in the decisions. Other members of Phillips's family declined to speak with reporters after the hearing. Cottrell's attorneys had described him as a scared and panicked young man who defended himself against an unwanted sexual advance from Phillips, 36, in Cottrell's Elizabethtown motel room.

Fishermen found Phillips's body stuffed in the suitcase floating in Rough River Lake eight days after his family reported him missing. Cottrell told jurors last week that he killed Phillips but insisted he did so
in self-defense. 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."

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