Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Suspect pleads innocent in death


FORT SMITH — Brent Cotta of Fort Smith pleaded innocent Wednesday to killing his 24-year-old wife, the same day prosecutor­s released a statement saying Cotta had confessed to the killing earlier to a police detective.

Sebastian County Circuit Judge Michael Fitzhugh set Cotta’s cash bond at $ 500,000, according to Prosecutor Dan Shue. Cotta remained jailed late Wednesday.

A report by Fort Smith police Detective Adam Creek, presented to Fitzhugh on Wednesday, said that Creek had interviewe­d Cotta about the case.

Cotta “gave inconsiste­nt stories that I was able to disprove,” Creek wrote. “I confronted him about the inconsiste­ncies and he admitted to killing her. He then took me to her body.”

Police found Cassie Cotta’s body about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in southern Crawford County near Gun Club Road. Police are waiting for the state medical examiner’s office to determine cause of death.

The waitress had been reported missing on Saturday by her mother, Pearl Cook of Van Buren. Cassie

Cotta was reportedly last seen by her husband about 10 p.m. Friday. She did not appear for her job Saturday at Perry’s Place Bar on North Sixth Street.

Court records show three domestic battery reports were made between September 2010 and March involving the two.

On Sept. 19, 2010, Cassie, whose last name then was Hardy, reported that her thenboyfri­end Brent Cotta had “pulled her across the room by her hair and choked her.” The report said Cassie Hardy didn’t want to report the incident but decided to after a friend advised her. But the investigat­or said Hardy didn’t return calls.

On Oct. 7, 2010, a neighbor called saying that Hardy was fighting with her boyfriend Brent Cotta. “Cassie Hardy said that her boyfriend Cotta had choked her,” the report said. District court records show Brent Cotta pleaded guilty, but records do not show the sentence.

On March 6, police responded to a domestic disturbanc­e where Cassie Hardy said that Cotta had pushed her against a dresser. She said they both had been drinking that day. He pleaded innocent. The dispositio­n of the case wasn’t clear from court records.

Shue said Wednesday that he would have to review the past records to comment. Normally, the prosecutor said, a finding of domestic violence in court “results in incarcerat­ion.”

Cassie Hardy was also charged separately with domestic battery, court records show. The victim was listed as Rodney Hardy on Sept. 5, 2009.

Rodney Hardy told police that he and Cassie Hardy argued and she “began punching him in the face.” She pleaded innocent, court records show. The dispositio­n of the case wasn’t clear.

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