Timeline: Melvin Roberts slaying

adys@heraldonline.comAugust 24, 2013 

Here’s a recap of the 3 1/2 years since the death of former York Mayor Melvin Roberts:


Feb. 4 – The 79-year-old longtime lawyer is strangled outside his York home. His girlfriend of 10 years, Julia Phillips – who is now either 68 or 72, according to differing court documents – tells police it was a robbery attempt and she was tied up by a dark-skinned intruder.

May 18 – Phillips is arrested outside the Gaffney store she ran in the building Roberts left to her in his will. York police say her claim of robbery in Roberts’ death was a hoax and charge her with murder.

June 7 – Prosecutors say in a bond hearing that Phillips’ motive could be that Roberts was leaving her, and it would be financially “catastrophic” for her.

June 10 – Circuit Court Judge Derham Cole of Spartanburg, appointed to hear the case because of Roberts’ relationships with York County judges, grants Phillips $75,000 bond, placing her under house arrest with electronic monitoring at the Gaffney house where Phillips lived with her late husband, Bryant Phillips, until he died in 1999.

June 13 – After another bond hearing, Phillips is released from jail in Gaffney on $5,000 bond related to a breach of trust charge alleging she stole $2,000 in rent money from Roberts Realty.

June 14 – Bryant Phillips’ body is exhumed after his daughters ask for an investigation into his death. Results from those tests still have not been released.

Aug. 2 – A probate court judge evicts Phillips from the Gaffney home after her stepdaughters sued to have her and her son removed. Judge Cole, however, issues an order allowing her to stay there until the criminal trial is over.

Oct. 29 – The 13th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in Greenville takes over prosecution of the murder case because 16th Circuit prosecutors knew Roberts.

Dec. 10 – Judge Cole finds probable cause for the murder case against Phillips, so prosecutors can proceed to a grand jury.


June 16 – Julia Phillips is indicted by a York County grand jury.

June 27 – Phillips pleads guilty to felony breach of trust for stealing the rent money from Roberts. She is sentenced to probation and remains on house arrest in Gaffney.

July – Phillips relinquishes her rights to the Gaffney building where she maintained the store – a building she would have received after the execution of Roberts’ will.


January – Hunter Stephens, Phillips’ son, who admitted in court documents that he was a suspect in the Roberts killing but was never charged, is arrested on felony drug and fraud charges.

April – Phillips is accused of failing to pay restitution payments to probation officials in rent fraud scam.

June – Phillips’ lawyer claims she is mentally incompetent to stand trial. Judge Cole orders mental evaluation testing.


April – Hunter Stephens pleads guilty to drug and fraud charges and is sentenced to 12 years in prison.

April – Phillips is found competent to stand trial.

July – Prosecutors seek to revoke Phillips’ bond after alleging she violated rules of house arrest. Judge Cole allows Phillips to stay on house arrest.

Monday – Phillips’ murder trial is scheduled to open at Moss Justice Center in York.

Compiled by Andrew Dys

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