PHOENIX, AZ (April 26, 2013) – The Honorable M. Scott McCoy today ordered Eric James Coulter (D.O.B. 10/30/1992) to serve the maximum term of 21-years in prison for fatally shooting his girlfriend with a rifle in 2011, an act he claimed was an accident. A jury found Coulter guilty of Manslaughter after a ten day trial last month.
“Despite the efforts by this defendant to avoid accountability for his criminal actions, justice has finally prevailed,” remarked Maricopa County Bill Montgomery. “Yet we also recognize that no punishment can replace the innocent young life that was taken by this senseless crime nor fully assuage the pain suffered by the victim’s family,” he added.
On October 15, 2011 at 1:09 a.m., Chandler 911 received a call from John Coulter reporting that his son’s girlfriend had been shot in the head and was likely dead in a bedroom of his home on McKemy Avenue. When police arrived, John Coulter told them that he had been awakened by the sound of a gunshot from his son Eric’s bedroom. He said that Eric told him he had accidentally shot his girlfriend Monique in the head and then fled the residence. Police found Monique Cota, age 18, deceased on the bedroom floor with an apparent bullet entry wound in her face.
After an extensive search, Eric Coulter was located and arrested the following day at a motel in Mesa in the company of friends and family who largely corroborated his account of the killing as an accident. He told them he had been inspecting his AR-15 rifle and was clearing it of any cartridges. He claimed to have pulled the charging handle and bolt back several times and showed Monique the rifle was empty, but the rifle discharged striking Monique in the head.
Police learned from the victim’s family that she and Coulter began dating in 2009 and occasionally lived together at Coulter’s parent’s home. Their relationship was volatile and both had been arrested for a previous domestic violence dispute that broke out at the McKemy Avenue home. Family members said that Coulter had been physically abusive towards Monique and that she planned to end their relationship. Several days before she was killed, Monique told her sister that she had become engaged to a childhood friend who lived in California and that she was planning to relocate there and live with him.
On October 15, 2011, a Grand Jury indicted Eric Coulter on one count of Second Degree Murder, a dangerous felony and domestic violence offense. His trial began with jury selection on February 21, 2013 and lasted ten days. The jury deliberated for less than three days before convicting Coulter of the lesser included offense of Manslaughter.