Eric James Coulter was found guilty of manslaughter Monday for fatally shooting his girlfriend, Monique Cota, in Chandler.
Coulter, 20, shot Cota,18, with a military-style assault rifle – an action he claimed was an accident. He will be sentenced April 23 with a possible prison sentence ranging from 7 to 21 years, according to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Chandler police received a 9-1-1 call from John Coulter, reporting that his son’s girlfriend had been shot in the head and was likely dead in a bedroom of their home on McKemy Avenue. Eric Coulter fled before police responded. He was found the next day in a Mesa motel with friends and family who corroborated his story as an accident.
Coulter told police that he had been inspecting and cleaning his AR-15/M-16 rifle. He claimed to have pulled the charging handle and bolt back several times to inspect the empty rifle.
Coulter and Cota began dating in 2009. The couple had a volatile relationship, according to the county attorney’s office. Both had been arrested before on a previous domestic violence dispute at the McKemy Avenue home.
Cota is said to have told her sister several days before she died that she planned on ending her relationship with Coulter because she had become engaged to a childhood friend. She planned to relocate to California to live with him.
On Oct. 15, 2011, a grand jury indicted Coulter on one count of second-degree murder, a dangerous felony and domestic violence offense. His trial began with jury selection on Feb. 21 and lasted ten days. The jury deliberated for less than three days before convicting Coulter of the lesser offense of manslaughter.
Maricopa County Attorney’s Office