(CNS) – A 22-year-old La Quinta resident was sentenced Friday to 50 years to life in state prison for the shooting death of a young man during a botched drug deal in La Quinta.
An Indio jury deliberated about six hours in January before finding Jesse Keith Cottom and fellow La Quinta resident Kenneth Michael Wilson guilty of murdering 20-year-old Ryan Sniffin of Joshua Tree in the Cove neighborhood on Jan. 30, 2015.
Cottom, who was underage at the time of the crime and had no previously felony convictions, was sentenced by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Johnnetta Anderson at the Banning Justice Center.
Wilson, 26, who had felony convictions that included robbery, was previously sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jurors convicted the pair of first-degree murder and attempted robbery, along with finding true a special circumstance allegation of committing a murder during the commission of a robbery, which could have opened the defendants up to the death penalty had the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office opted to seek it.
According to Deputy District Attorney Anne-Marie Lofthouse, Cottom was 17 years old when he shot Sniffin, who was trying to buy an ounce of cocaine from him, while Wilson provided his co-defendant with the gun and was present when the shooting occurred.
The victim arrived about 6:30 p.m. in the 51800 block of Avenida Ramirez in La Quinta to buy the drugs, but when Cottom arrived on a bicycle — along with Wilson and another man — Sniffin refused the substances Cottom handed him, saying he wanted “better stuff,” according to trial testimony.
After initially riding away, Cottom returned on foot alone and attempted to rob the victim, pointing a gun at his head, according to prosecutors and witness testimony. During the scuffle, Cottom shot Sniffin in the neck, then fled.
Sniffin died about 11 that night at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.
A third co-defendant in the case, Wayne David Wilson — the 29-year- old brother of Kenneth Wilson — previously pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to probation.