YORK, S.C. (AP) — A jury is getting ready to hear closing arguments in the case of a 69-year-old Gaffney woman charged with murder in the death of her boyfriend.
Julia Phillips arranged the death of 79-year-old attorney Melvin Roberts at his home in York in February 2010, prosecutors said.
Roberts was killed when someone beat him over the head with a blunt object, fired a gunshot to keep him still after he fell to the ground, then wrapped a zip tie around his neck and pulled it tight while keeping a foot on his back for traction, according to testimony in the seven-day trial.
A pathologist said Roberts’ 16-inch neck was squeezed down to 13 inches by the time the tie was removed during his autopsy.
Closing statements are scheduled for Thursday.
Prosecutors don’t think the frail Phillips is the killer, instead, saying she arranged her boyfriend’s death because Roberts was about to leave her after supporting her financially for years. But no one else has been charged in Roberts’ killing.
There is no direct evidence linking her to the killing and the physical evidence — a small amount of gunshot residue found on Phillips’ clothes — is “inconclusive at best,” said Phillips’ attorney Bobby Frederick.
But prosecutors have emphasized a number of inconsistencies in Phillips’ version of events.
She said she was at Roberts’ home when a man came and demanded money. Phillips said she had none, and he tied her up and gagged her with duct tape.
Phillips said Roberts came home about 30 minutes later and was attacked. Phillips said she was eventually able to cut through the tape with a key and call 911, although the first two emergency calls did not go through.
But it was raining, and police pointed out Phillips’ clothes were barely wet. Investigators also showed Phillips’ phone records, which indicated she called her home in Gaffney twice before calling 911.
The trial has also included plenty of bizarre testimony. A key prosecution witness who testified Phillips asked him to kill Roberts also admitted he did plastic surgery without a license and was a drug informant.
In his opening statement, Phillips’ lawyer told the jury she was wearing pink silk thong underwear and had some Mike’s Hard Lemonade with her the night of the killing because they were going to celebrate her birthday.
Jurors were shown video of Phillips talking to a police officer taking photos of scratches and bruises on her arms and face hours after the killing, asking him if the photos would end up in Playboy.
Phillips faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.
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