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.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.