York City man now guilty of murdering three people

Liz Evans Scolforo

When Durell Cotton Jr. went on trial this week in York County Court for double murder, he was already serving a possible life sentence for a York City gang-related slaying.

On Wednesday, a day before his 21st birthday, a second jury found him guilty of committing two more murders.

Durell Cotton Jr.

Jurors took a little more than an hour to find Cotton guilty of two counts each of first- and third-degree murder, according to Kyle King, spokesman for the York County District Attorney's Office.

Presiding Common Pleas Judge Christy Fawcett then imposed the only sentence available to Cotton under state law — life in prison without the possibility of parole, King said.

The judge ordered Cotton's two life sentences run consecutively to each other and to his first murder sentence, according to King.

Cotton is already serving 59½ years to life for the Oct. 15, 2013, gang-related murder of Jordan Breeland. His co-defendant, Elvin Mateo Jr., received an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Cotton avoided the automatic life sentence for that slaying because he was still a juvenile when he and Mateo murdered Breeland over a gang beef.

Closing arguments: There can be no doubt that Cotton intended to kill York City brothers Angel Berrios, 21, and Abdiel "Tito" Vazquez-Soto, 19, when he shot at them from the passenger side of a Cadillac more than a year ago, chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday told jurors Wednesday during his closing argument.

"When he unloaded into that car, it wasn't one shot. ... He fired six times ... from three to five feet away," Sunday said. "What greater evidence could we have (of Cotton's intent)?"

Even after Berrios tried to drive away, Cotton kept shooting, as evidenced by a bullet hole in the back of Berrios' car, according to the prosecutor.

Defense attorney John Hamme, during his closing argument, questioned the credibility of prosecution witnesses, telling jurors, "You have to acquit."

Witnesses, DNA: But Sunday went over his evidence piece by piece for jurors, reminding them that three people testified Cotton was the shooter — Francisco Rivera, who was in the car with the slain brothers; Raymond Bruno-Carrasquillo, who was driving the car that Cotton allegedly fired from; and Marcos Martinez, a friend of Cotton's who said Cotton confessed to him.

Also, Sunday argued, Cotton's DNA was found on the front passenger door handle of Bruno-Carrasquillo's Cadillac.

Rivera, a friend of the slain brothers, testified Monday that he was with them that night, in the back seat of Berrios' car. He said they were driving in the area of Jefferson Avenue and Juniper Street when "shots rang out," Rivera testified.

Berrios pulled over after Vazquez-Soto instructed him to do so, which is when a black Cadillac pulled alongside them, Rivera said.

'I'm about to die': He said he recognized Cotton, who was in the passenger seat. According to Rivera, Cotton got out of the Cadillac and started firing.

Rivera testified he heard Berrios say, "I got hurt, bro — I'm about to die."

Berrios hit the gas after being shot, and his car crashed into a utility pole, according to trial testimony.

Rivera, who wasn't shot but who was injured in the crash, said the next thing he knew, "I woke up in the hospital."

Sold drugs 'every day': Vazquez-Soto had told Rivera he had a beef with Bruno-Carrasquillo and that it was Bruno-Carrasquillo in the Cadillac, Rivera told jurors.

Bruno-Carrasquillo testified against Cotton this week and at the Breeland murder trial. At that earlier trial, he 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."

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.