SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — District Attorney Dan Dow announced that Marco Antonio Cota Jr. of San Luis Obispo has been sentenced to serve 75 years to life plus 21 years for first-degree murder and mutilation of human remains in the November 2021 killing of 64-year-old Rick Fowler. 

Cota was also ordered to register as a sex offender. The sentence was imposed by Superior Court Judge Timothy S. Covello who presided over the trial of the case. 

The murder of Fowler occurred in the Bianchi Open Space area of San Luis Obispo during the evening of Nov. 20, 2021. The area contained several unauthorized encampments for the homeless population. 


At trial, jurors heard evidence that Cota and Fowler were involved in a verbal argument and that Cota followed Fowler back to Fowler’s campsite, where Cota attacked and beat him to death. Cota then pierced the body of Fowler in various areas with several wooden sticks including penetration of the victim’s rectum. When asked by law enforcement why he did so, Cota replied that he “wanted to show you what evil looks like.”

On Feb. 13, a San Luis Obispo County jury found Cota guilty of the murder and mutilation of Fowler. After the jury returned their verdict, Covello found true the allegation that Cota had suffered three prior convictions for felony “strike” offenses under California’s Three Strikes Law.

The prior convictions included a 1998 conviction for robbery in Tulare County, convictions for criminal threats in 2014, and assault with a deadly weapon in 2016, both in San Luis Obispo County. 

“Finally, there is justice for Mr. Rick Fowler, the victim in this case, who was senselessly and brutally murdered and his body mutilated,” said District Attorney Dan Dow. “We are grateful to the jury for faithfully performing their civic duty by their careful attention to the presentation of evidence. Mr. Cota was given a fair trial, and now he will serve his fair and appropriate life sentence in prison. This sentence sends a loud message that violent crime is aggressively prosecuted in San Luis Obispo County.”

The case was investigated by the San Luis Obispo City Police Department, with the assistance of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation. The  case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Melissa Chabra.