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Man Who Robbed and Terrorized Elderly Bristol Couple Gets 7 to 20 Years

August 22, 2016

Contact: Christopher Rees, 215.348.6341, cwrees@buckscounty.org

A man who ambushed and pistol-whipped an elderly man before robbing him and his wife at gunpoint in their Bristol Township home was sentenced this morning to serve seven to 20 years in state prison.

William Cottrell, 30, of Bensalem, was convicted May 25 of multiple felonies after a three-day jury trial in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. The jury found Cottrell guilty of first-degree felony burglary, two counts each of first- and second-degree felony robbery, one count of aggravated assault and one count of simple assault.

Judge Rea B. Boylan had deferred sentencing to allow for a pre-sentence investigation to be conducted. Today, calling the home-invasion robbery of the older couple “a horrific offense,” Boylan ordered Cottrell to serve three concurrent seven- to 20-year sentences for the burglary and robberies, plus a concurrent five to 10 years for aggravated assault.

On June 16, 2012, Cottrell accosted 70-year-old Fox McClure as he returned to his home at approximately 2 a.m. He forced Mr. McClure into the house, struck him twice in the head with a handgun, and robbed him of several hundred dollars’ worth of collectors’ coins.

Disguised in a dark cap, a hooded sweatshirt and a black bandana covering his face, the robber forced Mr. McClure into a bedroom, where he demanded that his wife, Willie Mae McClure, 65, remove money from a safe.

Mrs. McClure, dressed in a nightgown, gave Cottrell a bag of old, valuable coins from the safe. Cottrell then pointed his semi-automatic handgun at her face and demanded more money.

When Mrs. McClure insisted that there was no more money in the house, Cottrell, still pointing the gun, ordered her to face away from him. She refused, telling Cottrell that he would have to look her in the face if he was going to shoot her.

Cottrell then fled on foot.  The couple called police and gave officers a description of the assailant.

Cottrell made his way from the Bloomsdale section of Bristol Township to a backyard on Beaver Dam Road, where he encountered a resident who heard him and had seen police lights outside. Cottrell offered to give the resident money to stay quiet before disappearing over a stockade security fence.

A police dog was able to track Cottrell’s scent to the Beaver Dam Road neighborhood, but officers were unable to catch him.

Later that day, the man who had encountered Cottrell in his back yard found a black hooded sweatshirt and a dark baseball cap concealed under the deck of his above-ground pool. Inside a pocket of the sweatshirt was a black bandana.

DNA samples were taken from the hat and bandana. Eventually police were able to match DNA found on the hat to Cottrell’s DNA, which had been entered into a law enforcement database as a result of Cottrell’s prior convictions on felony drug charges. DNA on the bandana was also consistent with Cottrell’s DNA.

“It’s hard to exaggerate” the fear and trauma of being robbed at gunpoint in one’s own home, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Rees argued in court. “There are few offenses that carry as great of a psychological burden” for the victims, he said.

Cottrell’s background shows a significant record of prior offenses, all of them nonviolent, but no evidence of mental health or drug problems. “There’s no real explanation for these invasive crimes,” Rees said.

Family members described Cottrell as a devoted father of four children, the oldest in sixth grade, and as someone who never before had been violent.

Cottrell spoke only briefly, adding nothing to explain his behavior.

“I’m sorry for what happened to the McClure family, and for what they went through,” he said. “I know I’m facing a lot of time, but I just don’t know what to say right now.”

In addition to the prison sentence, Boylan ordered Cottrell to pay $500 in restitution to the victims, and to pay $1,070 for the cost of the DNA testing used in prosecuting him.

“This robbery affected two older people,” the judge said. “It had to be a terrifying experience.”

Approved for release by Marc J. Furber, Deputy District Attorney.


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Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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