ChesterNewMatterFall2017 - 26

CCBA Feature

Continued from page 25
Later, the forensic pathologist determined death was due
to severe traumatic head injuries, caused by multiple blows
from a blunt instrument. With the help of X-rays and the
pathologist's input, a sketch artist drew a depiction of Cotter's
reconstructed face. A detective contacted Rack-Up Pool
Hall, with the receipt and the sketch. The manager quickly
identified a teenager "Phil," who hung out with two other
young guys. Phil wore red tennis shoes. Other patrons said
Bobby Joe Harrington was one of Cotter's companions.
Harrington was found through a warrant check revealing
unpaid traffic fines.
Detective Louis Marquez went to the Martinez apartment
and questioned Harrington about Cotter and his whereabouts.
Harrington nonchalantly said his ex-roommate left the night
before with a duffel bag, without any explanation of his plans.
Constructing a defensive wall, Harrington spoke evasively
about Cotter and provided little information about someone
he knew casually, who kept to himself, and came and went
irregularly. Harrington basically stuck to his story and
appeared unconcerned about Cotter's death. As the detective
stood up to leave, he somehow happened to notice by a couch
a darkened rectangular area on the sun bleached floor, the
same size as the rug that covered Phil Cotter. Marquez asked
Harrington about the whereabouts of the other roommate Will
Marquez located Johnson at his workplace and invited him

26 | New Matter

to the Sheriff 's office for an interview. Johnson reluctantly
agreed and was placed in an interrogation room. At first
Johnson said Cotter had abruptly left and he had no idea
where he might be. The cover-up was soon torn to shreds by an
inspired, skillful Marquez who knew how to prod and when to
ease off to coax out information. When Johnson elaborated a
bit, but stuck to his story that Cotter had left with a duffel bag,
Marquez suggested Bobby Joe Harrington told him a different
version. Johnson, perspiring, began to change the story's
chronology, added inconsistent details, and contradicted
himself. Finally, Marquez told him a rectangular rug was
missing from his apartment that had been wrapped around
the body. Like someone suddenly falling through an old,
collapsing trapdoor, Johnson rapidly blurted out that he didn't
kill Cotter, but only helped a bit and merely flung away the
hammer. During the next, intense forty-five minutes, prodded
by Marquez, he nervously recounted what happened from
his perspective and told of Jacob Pierce's involvement. Will
Johnson's exposed, guilty conscience had nowhere to hide.
Detective Marquez obtained a search warrant and hurried
back to the apartment with criminalists who discovered slight
traces of blood in the grooves of the floor. The blood type
matched Phil Cotter's. Rug fibers on the floor by the couch
matched the rug wrapped around Cotter's body. A persistent
search found the hammer in the underbrush.
Jacob Pierce was detained and said he had nothing to do
with the murder, but was only helping out some buddies.


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