Double murder draws 102 years

CROSSVILLE Prior to throwing himself to the mercy of a jury of his peers, Cody Rickey Cofer, 24, of Loudon County was offered a deal from state prosecutors that called for a 43-year prison sentence in exchange for his plea of guilty to killing Albert Keith Patton, and Robert William (Bill) Asher.

Despite saving the taxpayers money and getting what some might call a sweetheart deal for killing two men, Cofer and his family rolled the dice and invoked his right to trial and said no.

Today Cofer is serving two consecutive life sentences in the Tennessee Department of Corrections for the November 2008 killing of Patton, 29, and Asher, 62, during a home invasion at Patton's home just west of Crab Orchard.

"You went and did not even know where you were going, wore all black and a black mask and with guns," Judge David Patterson said in announcing his decision. "When you get there it is not even the same plan ... you saw a room full of peope. You should have backed out ...

"The court finds you place no value on human life, even when one lies dying."

In Tennessee, a life sentence equals 51 years in prison. By virtue of the sentences being ordered by Judge Patterson to be served one at a time, or consecutively, that equals 102 years before eligible for parole.

In addition, Patterson added a 12-year sentence to be served concurrently, or at the same time, for the aggravated robbery charge.

State Probation Officer Danny Williams was the only witness to testify during last Thursday's sentencing hearing, and provided a list of prior arrests that Cofer had accumulated between 2004-07. Charges included possession of marijuana for sale or delivery, criminal impersonation, evading arrest and a host of misdemeanor arrests.

Williams said he found that Cofer had violated probation conditions at least three times and was on probation when the murders were committed.

Witness impact statements were included in the file presented to Judge Patterson but were not read out loud in court. Family spokesperson, Terrye Patton, did address the court and with Cofer sitting just a few feet away, talked about the loss of their loved one. Cofer listened but showed no reaction to the statement.

Patton used words like "gentleman, true cowboy, generous," to describe Albert Keith Patton, and called Cofer and his co-defendants "greedy and selfish. He has shown no remorse."

She broke from her written text to tell Cofer that as long as he denied his role in the killings, " ... you are never going to get anywhere ... We just want to hear you are sorry so we can go on."

Deputy District Attorney Gary McKenzie used Cofer's prior record, the fact the crime had more than one victim, that there was disregard for human life with so many witnesses in the room, that a firearm was used and that Cofer is a dangerous offender.

"There was no hesitation on his part when the risk was great," McKenzie argued to the court. "As for regard to human safety, there had to be none." He pointed toward Cofer's threat to kill one of the witnesses if he went to aid the two dying men.

Defense attorney Robert Marlow argued for two life sentences to be served concurrently for a total of 51 years, adding that the state withdrew the option of life without parole during the trial.

Patterson stated, however, that the dropping of life without parole was between state prosecutors and Marlow and not the court.

The rejected 43-year offer is the same sentence that co-defendant Alexander Carino received when he pleaded guilty. In exchange for that sentence, Carino was supposed to testify against his friend but when it came time for Carino to take the witness stand, the co-defendant balked.

Because Carino refused to testify, the state has filed a motion to set aside his guilty plea in an effort to bring his case before a jury. McKenzie asked that a hearing date be set on that motion and Patterson said he would set that date on Jan. 26 when he hears motions for a new trial. That hearing will begin at 2 p.m.