Calvin Phillips Jr. pleads guilty in murder of Topekan Curt Cochran

Prosecutors and a defense attorney will recommend that a judge sentence Calvin S. Phillips Jr. to a 30-year prison term in the gruesome killing of 64-year-old Curt Cochran in a downtown Topeka warehouse, according to a last-minute plea agreement filed Monday.

 

Nearly 100 people called for jury duty had trooped into a Shawnee County District Court at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

But before a jury was selected, Phillips, 24, pleaded guilty to two charges tied to the suffocation death of Cochran. Phillips made pleas to intentional second-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping, a statement issued by District Attorney Mike Kagay said.

Prospective jurors waited in the courthouse as prosecution and defense attorneys discussed a potential plea by Phillips. They were released about 12:40 p.m. Monday, and Phillips pleaded guilty about 1:30 p.m.

Before the pleas, Phillips also faced felony counts of aggravated robbery, burglary and theft of firearms, as well as misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property and theft. Those five charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

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Prosecution and defense attorneys agreed they would recommend that the judge sentence Phillips to the aggravated prison terms of 330 months for the two convictions, the highest terms possible for the two convictions, and recommend that the judge depart upwards another 30 months, Kagay said.

That sentence would total 30 years.

Phillips will be sentenced March 9 by District Judge Nancy Parrish.

In making the pleas, Phillips agreed to testify against co-defendant Michael Timothy Lamar Hall, 34.

Hall is charged with alternative counts of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, burglary, felony theft, two counts of criminal possession of a firearm, and misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property and interference with a law enforcement officer.

Hall will appear in court Friday for a status conference. Hall’s trial had been scheduled to start on Monday — the same day as Phillips’ trial, but before a different judge and jury.

Hall’s trial was postponed after a judge granted Hall’s motion on Dec. 21 to appoint a new attorney to represent him.

Co-workers discovered Cochran had been killed May 9, 2016, in a warehouse at 200 S.W. Jackson, which was owned by KDL Inc. An investigation revealed Cochran was tied to a chair and beaten after his head was wrapped in plastic, and his throat was cut.

Phillips testified during a pre-trial hearing on Friday, alleging a police detective had deceived him into stating that his co-defendant committed the murder.

Phillips had sought to suppress a statement he made during police questioning. The judge denied Phillips’ motion earlier Monday and granted a prosecution motion to admit Phillips’ statement to Topeka police Detective Brian Hill.

Hill testified Friday that he read the Miranda warning to Phillips, who waived his rights and spoke with Hill. Hill said he twice reminded Phillips of the Miranda warning during his police interview, and Phillips waived it.

The required Miranda warning tells someone in custody and about to undergo questioning that he has the right to remain silent; that anything he says can and will be used against him in court; that he has a right to an attorney; and that if he can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided for him. The person being questioned then is asked whether he understands the rights that have been read to him, and with those rights in mind, whether he still wishes to speak with the officer.

During police questioning by Hill, Phillips said Hall admitted killing Cochran.

Charles Glenn, Shawnee County coroner and forensic pathologist, said Cochran’s attackers encircled his head with plastic wrap, which smothered him. Cochran also was slashed and clubbed.

Contact reporter Steve Fry at (785) 295-1206 or @TCJCourtsNCrime on Twitter.

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