Man kills ex-wife's new spouse, himself
Sunday, July 13, 2003
By KELLY ADAMS and GREGG SHERRARD BLESCH, Columbian staff writers
Joseph Hatley's day-old marriage ended Saturday morning when his new wife's ex-husband shot and killed him and then committed suicide in front of the newlyweds' home as police held him at gunpoint.
Officers arrived at the home of Hatley and Michelle Cotton, who married Friday, to find her running from the home holding her 4-year-old son followed by Robert Cotton armed with a gun.
Cotton tackled his ex-wife, but she broke free while officers ordered him to release her, police said.
After ignoring repeated commands to drop his weapon, Cotton pointed the pistol under his chin and fired, police said.
Officers later discovered Hatley's body inside the home.
"He just graduated from high school, it seems like," said Barbara Hatley of Camas, Joseph Hatley's stepgrandmother.
Hatley, 18, graduated early, at age 16, she said. "He's a kid and so very gorgeous."
Hatley and Michelle Cotton, who is believed to be 32, moved into the house at 13013 S.E. Rivercrest Drive about a week ago, said Officer Patrick Kennedy.
Bethany Norberg, who lives next door, said her husband and son had chatted with Michelle Cotton and reported she was very friendly.
"I thought, 'Well good, we got a nice neighbor,'" Norberg said.
Shortly before 7 a.m. Saturday, some neighbors heard what they thought were fireworks or noise from a nearby construction project, but Norberg said she knew otherwise.
"When I heard this, I knew it was a gun," she said.
The house was recently listed for sale at more than $400,000. The lawn was well-manicured with a stone statue of an angel standing guard at the door.
"This street doesn't generate a lot of calls for us and certainly not a call like this," said Kennedy.
Police had little information Saturday about the victims and gunman.
Michelle Cotton married Robert Cotton, who is believed to be 39 to 42 years old, in 1996. They filed for divorce in March.
In 1998, The Columbian featured the couple and two of their sons in a story about a national TV-Turnoff Week. The story quoted the couple as saying they didn't think TV hurt their children, but Robert Cotton didn't like the violent nature of many shows. However, he thought that some programs such as "Cops" prepared children for the unpleasant realities of life.