Robert C. Williams
Robert C. Williams

Minutes after a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder and robbery, Robert C. Williams was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the killing of Stanley Cotton.

Jurors took about 6-1/2 hours over two days to reach a verdict, which happened about 12:30 p.m. Friday.

They found him guilty of the murder and robbery of Cotton, as well as the robbery of Cotton's friend, Bobby Barnes.

York City Police said Williams, 35, of York City, lured Cotton -- his crack-cocaine dealer -- to 612 W. Market St. about 10:30 p.m. Nov. 10, 2011. Barnes was with Cotton that night and accompanied him and Williams there.

A masked, gun-wielding robber was hiding in the building and robbed both Cotton and Barnes, then pistol-whipped Barnes.

The gun fired when it hit Barnes' head, and police believe that's the bullet that fatally struck Cotton, 44, of East Poplar Street, in the back.

The killer has so far not been identified.

'Why?' Cotton's widow, Terry "Lynn" Cotton moved from York to North Carolina after the killing. That's where Cotton was raised and where his family lives. She spoke in court prior to Williams being sentenced.

"What you did was horribly wrong," she told the defendant. "You left me and my kids without a husband and father ... and I just want to know why."

The victim's sister, Sandra Vaughn of North Carolina, tore into Williams when given the chance to speak.

"Whether you pulled the trigger or not, you're responsible," she said.


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"I want you to see the hurt in my eyes, what you did to me. ... When you close your eyes at night ... I want you to see Stanley, your so-called friend."

Vaughn derided Williams for claiming he'd been the victim's friend, and for robbing someone instead of working for a living.

"No friend of his would have done what you did," she said. "No matter what kind of life my brother lived, he wouldn't have done that (to you)."

Williams speaks: Williams also addressed the court, giving his condolences to the family but maintaining his innocence.

"Like I said from the beginning to the end, I was never involved in no robbery or set-up," he said. "I feel like the justice system has failed me."

He said prosecutors previously offered him a time-served prison sentence if he would tell them who the shooter was.

But Williams said he couldn't do that because he doesn't know.

Defense attorney George Marros said he and Williams will discuss appeal options.

"It was a tough decision for jurors," Marros said.

The victim: Cotton was so much more than just a crack-cocaine dealer to his family, his widow said.

Lynn Cotton said she and Stanley were together for 17 years, and married for 14 of them.

They have three children together -- 13- and 8-year-old sons and an 11-year-old daughter. The victim also has a 25-year-old son from a previous relationship, Lynn said.

"He was a good father ... a good husband," she said, and sold drugs to put food on the table and pay bills.

He was fun to be around and loved sports, and often played football with his children, she said.

Stanley Cotton's death has been very hard on his children, who continue to struggle with it, their mother said.

"At first they thought it was a big dream," she said.

Lynn said it's very frustrating that her husband's murderer has so far not been found, and that Williams apparently is protecting him.

"I think he knows who it is," she said. "He just doesn't want to tell."

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.