an example of a man raising a knife. Photo from Pixabay.
An example of a man raising a knife not connected to allegations in this story. Photo from Pixabay.

A man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to fatally stabbing his mother and uncle at their Altadena home while she was on a Zoom call with colleagues from Pasadena City College — at least one of whom witnessed part of the attack.

Robert Cotton, 32, is charged with two counts of murder for the March 22 killings of Carol Anne Brown, 67, and her brother, Kenneth Wayne Preston, 69.

The charges include an allegation that Cotton personally used a knife in the commission of the crime.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies from the Altadena Station went to a residence in the 3100 block of North Marengo Avenue about 2:45 p.m. that day on a report of a possible kidnapping in progress, Deputy Tracy Koerner said.

Brown, a Pasadena City College employee, was in her living room on a Zoom call with a colleague who saw part of the attack on Preston and called 911, according to sheriff’s Lt. Barry Hall, who said the tipster saw a man dragging another man into the living room but did not see either victim being stabbed.

When deputies arrived, they found Preston, who had been stabbed several times, dead in the driveway and Brown dead inside the home and learned a Lexus SUV belonging to one of the victims was missing from the residence.

While investigators were canvassing the crime scene, Cotton showed up on foot and identified himself as a resident of the home, sheriff’s officials said. He had allegedly ditched the Lexus in the neighborhood.

Brown died of stab wounds of the neck and Preston died of multiple stab wounds, according to the coroner’s office.

A motive for the stabbings was unknown.

Pasadena City College President-Superintendent Erika Endrijonas posted a message on Facebook in which she wrote that “our PCC family suffered a terrible loss. Dr. Carol Brown, who most recently served as a co-coordinator of the Black STEM program, was the victim of a violent crime where she and her brother lost their lives. … The incident occurred during a remote conference call with other college employees.”

Cotton was arrested at 4:50 p.m. the day of the killings and has remained behind bars in lieu of $4 million bail.

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