Emotional reaction to sentencing in grandmother murder - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Emotional reaction to sentencing in grandmother murder

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EL CAJON (CNS/CBS8) - A man convicted of the financially motivated robbery and strangulation death of his 73-year-old grandmother in her Alpine mobile home was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Brandon Hayes, 29, was convicted in August of first-degree murder, and jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of murder committed in the course of a robbery and burglary in the May 16, 2009, death of Eunice Cothron.

Before he was sentenced, Hayes' own family members addressed him in court and said they wished he were dead. Cothron's daughter Marian Higdon said, "Your grandmother once loved you unconditionally and now you've destroyed her life here on earth, but one day our family will be together in heaven again and you will rot in hell. It's too bad the death penalty is not in play."

Hayes' accomplice, 22-year-old Jeffrey Carl Reed, was convicted of the same charges and though he was scheduled to be sentenced immediately after Hayes, his attorney asked for his sentencing to be postponed.

Reed's attorney, Tom Carnessale, said he received a late probation report, and therefore wasn't prepared.

Cothron's family members expressed their frustration and anguish with the delay. Through tears, Cothron's son Harold Gleason told the judge, "I have three grandkids that my mom never saw and I just would be really thankful if we could get this over with, so I'd like to ask you if you could reconsider."

Despite the plea, the judge granted Reed's attorney a two week postponement. Reed is now scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 1. Reed also faces life in prison without parole.

Cothron's family was still given the opportunity to address Reed. Carmen Hayes, Cothron's daughter-in-law told Reed, "You could've stopped it, you could've called the police, you could've told Brandon not to, you could've hit Brandon over the head and said 'We're not doing this.' But no, because of greed, drugs, and money... that's why she's dead."

On his way out of the courtroom, Reed muttered, "Hope you all rot in hell."

Prosecutor Kurt Mechals said the defendants, both drug addicts, wanted money and forced their way into Cothron's home, strangled her, then robbed her before partying on the proceeds.

Hayes had alienated all of his family members except Cothron, but even she took out a temporary restraining order against her grandson about a month before her death, Mechals said.

Defense attorney Bart Sheela conceded that Hayes killed his grandmother but maintained he wasn't guilty of murder because he didn't go there to rob her. Instead, Sheela argued, Hayes strangled and robbed Cothron when she told him that she didn't have his birth certificate.

Hayes' father, Alan, found his mother's body on the kitchen floor. Mechals said the victim had blunt force injuries to her face, neck and head, bruises on her arms and lacerations to her neck.

A sheriff's deputy came upon the defendants at a Shell gas station near the victim's home around 4:30 a.m. the day of the murder and told Hayes the restraining order had become permanent, Mechals told the jury.

After killing Cothron, the defendants stole the victim's car and drove to the border near San Ysidro, Mechals said. The pair spent two days in Tijuana after the slaying, with Hayes spending a lot of money on a personal dancer, the prosecutor said.

Sheela said Hayes and Reed lived in Mexico because it was cheap and they could buy drugs there.

The attorney said the defendants went to Alpine the day of the killing so Hayes could retrieve his birth certificate, which he wanted for easier travel to Mexico and thought his grandmother had in her home.

Hayes initially sent Reed to Cothron's house to get the document, but when she told Reed, "I don't have it," both defendants returned to the mobile home, Sheela said.

When the victim told her grandson she didn't have his birth certificate, his whole world fell apart and he rushed in and killed her, then proceeded to steal her things, Sheela said.

Reed's attorney, Tom Carnessale, said in his closing arguments that Hayes was a "bizarre, deranged" man who threatened Reed with a knife before the two went into Cothron's home.

Hayes and Reed met at a drug rehabilitation facility two weeks earlier and walked away from the program a few days before the murder.

"Jeffrey Reed happened to get mixed up with this guy 10 days before this happened," Carnessale said.

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