Probation officials: Woman accused of killing former York mayor missed restitution payments in rent scam

Former York mayor’s accused killer owes rent scam restitution

adys@heraldonline.com April 19, 2012 

  • More information For past coverage in the death of Melvin Roberts, go to heraldonline.com.

— The suspected killer of York’s former mayor, who pleaded guilty to stealing money from him in a rent scam, has failed to pay more than $800 in restitution and fees as ordered by a judge, according to state probation officials.

Julia Phillips, who was former mayor Melvin Roberts’ girlfriend, could potentially have a five-year suspended prison sentence reinstated.

But she is allegedly so poor that she may not have to pay a $450 supervision fee to the courts because of “financial hardship.”

Prosecutors already have alleged Phillips had financial motives for killing Roberts, claiming he had plans to sever the relationship at the time of his death in February 2010.

Phillips, whom police records show is 67 but could be as old as 71, pleaded guilty in June to stealing $2,000 in apartment rent from Roberts’ realty company. She was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay restitution for felony breach of trust.

A five-year prison sentence was suspended.

Financial hardship

But after she allegedly missed payments, probation officials held an administrative probation hearing Wednesday in Cherokee County claiming Phillips violated probation, according to Pete O’Boyle, spokesman for S.C. Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services.

Phillips is $830 behind in restitution and fees, O’Boyle said.

A probation hearing officer after the hearing recommended Phillips be exempt from paying a $450 supervision fee because of “financial hardship,” O’Boyle said Thursday.

She must become current in the ongoing payments schedule within four months, and she must pay a fee for DNA and drug-testing requirements after the restitution is paid, according to the recommendation.

A circuit judge must approve the recommendation.

It is possible that a judge could revoke the suspended sentence and order a court hearing, but revocation for nonpayment usually comes after willful failure to pay and not economic hardship, O’Boyle said.

Phillips was freed on $75,000 bond, placed on house arrest in Gaffney and ordered to wear electronic monitoring after her May 2010 arrest on the murder charge. She did not ask for a public defender in the murder case, yet does not have a job and had court-documented financial problems at the time of her arrest.

It has never been stated in court how she is paying for legal services or any other requirements.

Her lawyer since soon after her arrest, Bobby Frederick of Myrtle Beach, could not be reached Thursday. He appeared at the Wednesday probation hearing.

‘Justice for my dad’

Roberts’ surviving sons, David Roberts and Ronnie Roberts, attended the Wednesday administrative hearing.

During the hearing, Ronnie Roberts said he asked probation officials to revoke Phillips’ probation after she refused to abide by court-required payments.

“I will continue to pursue every legal remedy available to me and be at every hearing of any kind,” Ronnie Roberts said Thursday.

David Roberts vowed to “take whatever effort it requires to get justice for my dad.”

Melvin Roberts, 79, was strangled in his home’s driveway. Phillips had been Roberts’ live-in girlfriend for about a decade.

Phillips told police on the day Roberts was killed that she was a robbery victim, but police later said the claim was hoax.

Police cited her clothes being dry on a wet day, gunshot residue on her after she claimed not to have fired a gun for weeks, no items being stolen, and other factors as reasons to call her claim of being a victim fraudulent.

A Gaffney police officer testified at one hearing that a confidential informant had told police that Phillips had asked about the cost and method of having Roberts killed.

At the time of her arrest on the murder charge, Phillips ran a clothing store in a Gaffney building owned by Melvin Roberts, which she stood to inherit upon his death. But court documents have shown that Roberts had started to cut off financial support to Phillips, and police and prosecutors have stated in court hearings that Roberts planned to end the relationship and financial support for Phillips.

Court records show Phillip did not pay bills for clothes and other items at the store, even after she lost civil lawsuits filed against her seeking money.

Still ‘following leads’

No one else has been charged in the murder, but police and prosecutors have said authorities believe she did not act alone.

Police are still “following leads and interviewing people,” said Lt. Rich Caddell of the York Police Department.

Caddell declined Thursday to discuss who has been interviewed or what leads are being investigated.

Court testimony has revealed that police made casts of footprints found at the scene, and officers followed a trail behind Roberts’ home where an assailant could have slid away through the mud.

Because of Melvin Roberts’ years of working with York County judges and prosecutors, Greenville County prosecutors are handling the case, and a Spartanburg judge has been assigned.

No trial date has been set, according to York County Clerk of Court David Hamilton.

Andrew Dys 803-329-4065

The Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service