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‘Today was a day of closure for us,’ family speaks after loved one’s killer sentenced

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Prosecutors called it a heinous murder.

Now, there’s justice for the family of Paula Martin.

23-year-old Dartangan Darnell Cotton avoided the death penalty by pleading to life without parole.

The courtroom was packed Monday with friends and family of Martin, some of them giving powerful victim impact statements before a judge sentenced Cotton to life in prison without parole.

Those closest to Paula Martin remember her smile.

She was a smart and religious woman who loved her family.

“She cared more about other people than she did about herself, she would do anything for anybody,” her brother, Gerald Martin, said.

Paula’s life was cut short in September 2011.

Police found her in a bedroom.

They say her body was rolled up in a blanket with her hands bound behind her back.

She’d been strangled to death.

She wasn’t the only one at her home.

Police saw Darnell Cotton's legs dangling through the ceiling, and they pulled him down.

Officers say he lived down the street from Martin and didn’t have a motive to kill her.

Cotton was charged with burglary, rape, and murder.

“Today was a day of closure for us. We'd been waiting three-and-a-half years just to go to trial,” Martin said.

That trial was set to begin Monday before Cotton decided to enter his guilty plea.

Prosecutors won a separate trial back in December when defense attorneys claimed Cotton was mentally retarded.

The judge didn’t buy their claim.

Monday, Cotton left quietly after a judge sentenced him to prison for the rest of his life.

“Knowing that he's not going to be out on the street, not doing this again, hurting anyone else does give us a sense of relief and closure,” Martin said.

Martin was also beloved by her colleagues.

She’d worked at Tinker Air Force Base more than 30 years.

Monday, Cotton also pleaded guilty to having contraband in the Oklahoma County jail awaiting trial.

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