New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | December 8, 2019

‘Bizarre case’ results in strangulation, abduction convictions for New Kent man

By Andre Jones | July 29, 2019 11:25 pm

In what was called a bizarre case by both Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Linwood Gregory and defense attorney Todd DuVal, the end result saw a New Kent man being found guilty on two charges after a contested trial Monday morning in New Kent Circuit Court.

Richard Alvin Cothran, 62, of the 5400 block of Elm Road, was found guilty on one count each of strangulation and abduction. A charge of malicious wounding was dismissed, while the defendant accepted a plea deal on a misdemeanor charge of violating a protective order, with a second charge being dismissed.

On June 16, 2018, New Kent deputy Dillon McNew responded to the home of the victim. Upon arrived, he discovered her very distraught.

“Her clothing was very bloody, and she was bloody on other parts of her body,” the deputy testified.

The deputy went through the home, taking pictures of blood while inquiring what had occurred. The victim said that Cothran and herself had gotten into an argument and that he strangled her by placing her in a headlock.

The deputy collected a knife from the floor that was allegedly used in the abduction. But instead of using it against the victim, Cothran allegedly cut himself in a suicide attempt. However, the defendant did not die or bleed out and instead, returned to his residence. The blood on the victim was from Cothran’s self-inflicted wound and had made its way onto the clothing of the victim.

Captain J. Joseph McLaughlin III responded to the victim’s house before proceeding to Cothran’s house. Upon responding, Owen Sanders, Cothran’s roommate, went to get the defendant who was now in his room. When McLaughlin saw Cothran, he noticed a gash on the defendant’s neck and noted the scent of alcohol. When asked about the altercation, Cothran told the officer that he tried to kill himself. Cothran was arrested on the allegations.

Things begin to take a strange and unfortunate turn after the preliminary hearings. The victim passed away before Cothran’s trial, with both attorneys agreeing to use her testimony from the earlier trial. In the preliminary trial, information revealed that Cothran was in a relationship with the victim’s mother, who passed away in 2017.

Information from the prepared transcript depicted the victim’s view of what happened. The victim said that she had a hard time breathing and commented that Cothran had pulled her by her hair before he began to cut himself.

A motion to strike presented by DuVal was granted on the malicious wounding charge, as evidence presented didn’t warrant the definition. However, the abduction and strangulation charges moved forward as the defense presented evidence.

After hearing from Sanders, Cothran elected to testify on his behalf, presenting his recount of events that took place that day.

“It was the last day of school and she [the victim] wasn’t in any condition to pick up his son,” the defendant testified. “I picked him up and then received a call that someone wanted to buy my boat.

“I met the guy and sold my boat for $300 and then went back to over to the victim’s house,” Cothran continued. “I was asked to go get some alcohol and cigarettes and I went out to get them.”

Cothran added that after he bought the items and took them to the victim’s house, he returned home and found Sanders to be sick. Cothran claimed that while he was tending to his roommate, the victim called him and asked him to come back over as her son wouldn’t go to sleep.

“When I went over there, her son was sleep already,” the defendant said. “That’s when I tried to leave and she [the victim] told me that I couldn’t and that she needed the $300.”

Cothran said from that point he thought something was wrong for the victim to ask for the money. From there, a verbal argument ensued.

“I told her that if I’m not needed, I’m going to kill myself,” the defendant testified. “That is when she reached in the drawer and handed me a knife and told me to go ahead and do it.

“From there, I figured she was challenging me,” Cothran continued, speaking about his suicidal thoughts. “I cut my throat with a very bad knife. When I got enough blood going, she started screaming and saying she was sorry.”

The defendant said the victim tried to wrestle the knife away from him, but Cothran dropped to the floor before eventually making it to sit on the couch. He said that after checking on the victim’s son, he left to go back home.

When questioned by DuVal about why he wanted to kill himself, Cothran said he had just finished making a will.

“She would have been the beneficiary,” Cothran commented. “Killing myself would give her a quick and easy way to make money.”

During cross-examination, Gregory questioned Cothran’s story and his depiction of the victim.

“You said she was healthy but couldn’t do anything around the house?” the Commonwealth’s Attorney asked, pointing to statements made by the defendant surrounding the physical altercation where the victim allegedly tried to take the knife from Cothran.

“If you care about the son so much, why would you try to kill yourself when is in the bedroom?” Gregory continued.

“I don’t know. I was selfish,” was the response from the defendant.

As the defendant’s position in the witness chair slumped when asked about his criminal history and if the altercation with the victim was a typical fight, he remained silent for a few moments before responding.

“No,” he said.

Judge B. Elliott Bondurant evaluated the totality of the story and the testimony he heard throughout the case.

“She [the victim] was begging that she didn’t want her son to find her dead when he woke up,” the judge said, pointing to the transcript from preliminary hearings.

“How do you explain all these bruises and marks?” Bondurant continued, holding up pictures of the victim’s neck and body. “He was attacking her that’s how.”

DuVal’s final argument asked the court why the defendant would try to cut his own head off and not stab the victim while he had a knife in his hand. Gregory countered DuVal’s words with a statement of his own.

“He [Cothran] wanted to punish her by making her watch him kill himself,” the Commonwealth’s Attorney said. “He wanted her to feel the pain and suffering he felt because of her.”

Bondurant rendered his conviction of the defendant shortly afterwards.

“To be quite frank, I don’t find your story believable,” the judge told the defendant.

Formal sentencing on the two felony charges is scheduled for Sept. 30. Cothran received a 12-month sentence with all but 10 days suspended on the misdemeanor violating a protective order conviction after accepting a plea deal to the charge.