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Young murderer's sentence modified, 2nd trial starts Monday
A convicted York City murderer sentenced this summer to 65 years to life in prison was back in court Wednesday, and his sentence was modified.
The post-sentence motion hearing for Durell Cotton Jr. was held because his pre-sentence investigation report misstated his prior criminal record score, according to chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday.
Cotton, who was involved in the gang lifestyle and who turns 21 next week, was re-sentenced to 59½ years to life in prison, Sunday said, calling it a procedural matter.
"We wanted to correct that procedural error," the prosecutor noted, and confirmed he did not oppose defense attorney John Hamme's motion to do so.
Cotton and co-defendant Elvin Mateo Jr. have shown "absolutely zero guilt" about the Oct. 15, 2013, gang-related shooting death of Jordan Breeland, Sunday has said. Mateo was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Cotton avoided an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole because he was still a juvenile when Breeland was murdered.
But he's still facing two possible life sentences.
Second trial: Cotton also is charged in a 2015 double homicide in York City. His trial in that case starts Monday, according to Sunday.
Cotton is charged with first-degree murder for the June 12, 2015, shooting deaths of brothers Angel Berrios, 21, and Abdiel "Tito" Vazquez-Soto, 19.
Prosecution witness Raymond Bruno-Carrasquillo had previously testified that he was driving around with Cotton in the passenger seat when they pulled up to a vehicle carrying the brothers.
He maintains Cotton opened the car door and fired repeatedly at the brothers about 10:15 p.m. at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Juniper Street.
Because he was 18 years old when the brothers were slain, Cotton faces an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole if he's convicted of first-degree murder.
Gang beef: Regarding Breeland's murder, Sunday has said he was ambushed, and that the defendants were on "a mission to kill." Cotton drove while Mateo fired; a second man was injured as about 20 bullets flew, Sunday said.
An ongoing "beef" between York City's Southside and Parkway gangs in the fall of 2013 exploded into a war of back-and-forth drive-by shootings, according to trial testimony.
Breeland, 21, a member of the Parkway gang, was fatally shot in the chest.
In May, a jury found Cotton and Mateo guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault.
Breeland was in a car with Davon "YB" Brown when the hail of bullets hit them, and Brown suffered gunshot wounds to his hands, York City Police have said.
A typical day: During trial, Bruno-Carrasquillo was asked to describe a typical day for him, Mateo and Cotton, all of whom lived in the city's south side and hung out on Liberty Court:
"Wake up, go on Liberty Court and sell drugs, and the same thing, over and over," he testified. "Every day."
Bruno-Carrasquillo testified that in the days before Breeland's murder, Mateo and Cotton took a gun from Parkway associate Shyheim McDowell. He told jurors that caused several Parkway members — including Brown, allegedly — to retaliate by shooting up vehicles and a home on Liberty Court.
"It was a beef from there on," Bruno-Carrasquillo told jurors. "War."
'Someone had to die': Mateo and others drove around the Parkway Homes neighborhood looking to shoot anybody associated with the gang, according to Bruno-Carrasquillo, who said that's known as "lurking."
Mateo confessed that while lurking, he spotted McDowell and shot him, according to Bruno-Carrasquillo. But that didn't end the beef.
"(Mateo) told me that that wasn't enough, and someone had to die," the witness testified. The next day, Bruno-Carrasquillo learned Breeland had been killed, he said.
According to Bruno-Carrasquillo, Mateo said he and Cotton were out lurking when they ran across Brown and Breeland in a gold SUV, and Mateo fired into the car.
The Parkway and Southside gangs have clashed violently for decades, according to officials, including a 2009 drive-by shooting in which 9-year-old Ciara "CeCe" Savage, of Lancaster, was fatally shot by a stray bullet while playing on a sidewalk in Southside territory.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.