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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Duo charged in 2nd crime


    The Rockdale-area teenagers arrested for capital murder this week have also been charged with burglary of a motor vehicle, authorities said.

    Tanner Baker and Brandon Cotton, both 18, remain behind bars in the Milam County Jail without bond.

    The two were arrested Monday after confessing to shooting and killing Sandra Phillips before burglarizing her home off F.M. 486 between Rockdale and Thorndale earlier that day.

    Rockdale Police Chief Thomas Harris said Baker is on probation for burglaries last fall.

    “”We have dealt with them several times,”” Harris said of the pair.

    Most of those instances were when the 18-year-olds were juveniles, he said.

    The additional charge was lodged after the teenagers admitted to stealing a truck about 1 a.m. Sunday from another homeowner.

    “”It shook the lady up a little bit whose truck was stolen, ’cause you realize you could have been this victim,”” Harris said, referring to the 50-year-old Phillips.

    Harris, who’s lived in the community for three decades, said Phillips’ murder was a “”terrible shock”” for the Rockdale area — especially since it appears Baker and Cotton did not know Phillips.

    “”This was a total stranger that walked up and shot her,”” he said. “”When your realize you could just answer your door and be shot and killed, it’s kind of spooky.””

    Milam County Sheriff’s deputies responded to Phillips’ home about 5 p.m. Monday after her husband called to report he’d found his wife dead.

    Baker was arrested after being found with Phillips’ white Ford Mustang at a local convenience store, and Cotton was detained an hour later at another store.

    Although the sheriff’s department listed the two with Rockdale addresses, they appear to have roots in the nearby community of Thorndale, population 1,300.

    Brian Morton, the Thorndale Chamber of Commerce president, said he knew Baker’s mother only in passing.

    “”Thorndale is your typical small, German farming community — close-knit, everybody knows everybody just about,”” Morton said. “”To say that this is a shock to Thorndale would be a grave understatement.

    “”We’re just not used to dealing with things like this. It’s not something we’ve become accustomed to and have built up a scar tissue to, like people maybe in larger towns.””

    Morton said the town had been abuzz about Baker and Cotton’s previous run-ins with the law, but no one imagined they’d be implicated in a crime of such magnitude as a capital murder.

    “”Unfortunately that way of life for us has changed slowly over the past 10 years, just as the larger areas have kind of encroached on us and people have moved in from bigger cities,”” he said. “”Just over time, things have evolved.””

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