SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The trial of a man accused of beating an unhoused San Luis Obispo resident to death and inserting sticks into his body heard from two forensic experts for the defense on Wednesday before resting its case.
The cause of death for the victim, Rick Fowler, was identified as blunt force trauma to the head, along with a number of other injuries, including broken bones, cuts, and bruises. The accused, Marco Antonio Cota Jr., allegedly murdered Fowler on Nov. 20, 2021, while the two were both unhoused and camping in a creekbed. Photos presented during the trial showed the extent of Fowler’s injuries, with his head beaten to the point of deformation and sticks protruding from his body.
The prosecution had previously alleged that Cota murdered Fowler in a rage, while the defense argued that Cota killed Fowler in self-defense. Cota is charged with murder and mutilation of human remains, and faces a potential life sentence in state prison if convicted.
Before resting its case, the defense called on two forensic experts to provide their insights on the killing. Dr. Christopher Happy, an expert in forensic pathology, discussed the nature and time of Fowler’s death as well as the mutilation of his body. Another expert, Dr. Howard Robin, was called to discuss the drugs found in Fowler’s body at the time of his death.
Happy detailed the extent of Fowler’s injuries, stating that he suffered extensive blunt force injuries to the head, along with numerous lacerations and broken ribs causing internal injuries. According to Happy, the victim died of blunt force trauma to the head, not the stick pushed through his throat.
Additionally, it was revealed during the trial that blood samples from both Fowler and Cota showed traces of methamphetamine and marijuana use, respectively, prompting discussions between the defense and prosecution before the trial proceedings concluded for the day. Closing arguments and jury deliberations are scheduled to take place starting the following day at 10:30 a.m.
The trial has shed light on the tragic circumstances surrounding Fowler’s death, providing a harrowing glimpse into the events that transpired on that fateful day in November. As both sides present their cases and evidence, the court proceedings have captured the attention of the local community and beyond, as the legal fate of Marco Antonio Cota Jr. hangs in the balance.