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Trial Begins For Siblings Accused In Drug Robbery

Opening statements were expected today in the trial of two of three siblings accused of ambushing a man to steal his marijuana, then shooting him during a scuffle in a Desert Hot Springs home.

Lavenski Harrell, 28, of Oakland and Latoya Jenkins, 23, of Desert Hot Springs face charges of murder, burglary, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon stemming from the Feb. 23, 2009, death of Samuel Raye Cotton.

They also face a special circumstance allegation of committing a murder during a robbery and a burglary. If convicted, they could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A third sibling, Curtis Lee Drake, 20, of Cathedral City, is being tried separately. His attorney declared a doubt of his mental competency in May and is due in court in August for a hearing on a doctor’s report.

Cotton was found with a gunshot wound to the back on the kitchen floor of a home in the 68000 block of Calle Azteca in Desert Hot Springs.

A woman at the home let Jenkins inside after stating that she wanted to buy a “dime bag” of marijuana from Cotton, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant.

A short time later, two armed men with handguns barged through the front door and ordered the woman and Cotton to the ground, said Det. Philip Weigel, who prepared the declaration.

Both men wore black hooded sweatshirts and black nylon stockings that obscured their faces, Weigel said.

Weigel said the witness said she complied with orders to get on the ground, but heard Cotton arguing with one of the gunmen. She then heard a struggle and a single gunshot.

During an interview with police, Drake admitted to police that he was at the scene, but maintained that he was not the shooter and implicated his sister and brother as being involved, according to the declaration.

KESQ News Team

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