Pete Van Winkle (left) and his victim, Robert Cotton (right)
Pete Van Winkle (left) and his victim, Robert Cotton (right)

Inmate Sentenced to Death For Jailhouse Murder That Cost Maricopa County $500K; Thanks Again, Joe

A Maricopa County Jail inmate convicted of the beating and strangling death of a fellow inmate has been sentenced to death.

This afternoon, 27-year-old Pete Van Winkle learned his fate in Maricopa County Superior Court after he was convicted of first-degree murder earlier this year.

Van Winkle was convicted of the infamous jailhouse murder of 28-year-old Robert Leroy Cotton, while the two were inmates at the Fourth Avenue Jail. The inmate's death ended up costing the county $500,000, but we'll get to that later.

Van Winkle, a known member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, was awaiting trial for attempted second-degree murder, when the jailhouse murder occurred.

After completing a seven-year prison sentence for trafficking in stolen property, theft, and shoplifting, Van Winkle was free for about five months before police say he shot Huy Minh Nguyen in the head inside a Phoenix apartment.

Cotton was awaiting sentencing after being convicted of driving a stolen vehicle and drug possession, when he was murdered, while in the sheriff's custody.

Jail surveillance video showed Van Winkle strangling Cotton and stomping on his head for nearly 20 minutes, before trying to throw his lifeless body off the second floor of the cell house.

The attack went virtually unnoticed by the sheriff's jailhouse squad and ended up costing the county $500,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Cotton's family.

Just another case of the Sheriff's Office putting those tax-dollars to (gulp) good use.


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