Police video: Phillips never checked on Roberts after York attack

adys@heraldonline.comAugust 28, 2013 

— The star of the third day of Julia Phillips’ murder trial on Wednesday was Julia Phillips herself.

A show in which Phillips – accused of killing longtime boyfriend Melvin Roberts – talked for hours, duct tape attached to her head that looked like a crown, askance.

A video of Phillips just hours after Roberts was killed, after she said she was attacked and dragged by her hair out in the “pouring rain” for 30 minutes, yet was barely wet.

Chuckling at times, Phillips cracked a few jokes with the cops, talked about her cats and flowers. She went off on tangents, told about how Roberts loved trees, was an awful driver and ordered fruit for gifts.

In this show Phillips said she never checked on Roberts after he was attacked, despite admitting she heard a gunshot. She volunteered to police that, “I know Melvin was dead,” as he lay on his patio in the cold rain of Feb. 4, 2010.

Roberts was just 10 or 12 feet from her, Phillips said, as she walked to her car to call 911 after allegedly escaping the “tight” duct tape that had bound her.

All this came out in court Wednesday, but Phillips did not say a word. She sat silent, as is her right.

Still, her words echoed throughout the courtroom Wednesday, as prosecutors showed video of her hours-long statements to police the night Roberts was strangled.

Phillips barely watched. The jurors watched it all, though.

They watched as she talked about her store, her keys, her son and more. They watched as she talked about Roberts’ swimming pool and plants and Cadillac and more – just hours after the worst night of her life.

In the video, Phillips did not ask police about whether Roberts was alive or dead.

Phillips has never confessed to the crime. She and her lawyer say she was attacked that night and is a victim herself. Police and prosecutors allege that she lay in wait and helped orchestrate the killing of Roberts that was carried out by an uncaught assassin.

Phillips has claimed since the day of the killing – heard again on video in court Wednesday – that a Hispanic man attacked her and kept saying, with an accent, “Money, money, money.” She claimed the person must have watched the house and knew her and Roberts’ routines.

“You can’t tell me he didn’t case the house,” she said of her alleged attacker. She claimed several times she told this attacker she would have given him all her money.

But police say no money was taken from Phillips or Roberts, who had hundreds of dollars in his pockets and wallet.

Phillips claimed, after questions from police, that Roberts had a Hispanic employee, too.

“And he’s been to the house, and he’s about that size,” she said of her alleged attacker.

Yet she had said repeatedly she never saw the attacker because he was always behind her and shoved her face down in the mud as rain poured down rain. And police say she was barely wet, and there was no mud on her face.

During more than two hours of speaking to police, Phillips did not cry. She seemed to nod off once when officers left the room for a while. At least four times, she said it all seemed “like a dream.”

The jurors watched all of it.

Phillips asked for no medical attention, despite her claims of having been attacked.

She could recite her driver’s license number, but couldn’t remember the street address where she lived for a decade. Her story changed a few times about an attack just hours before, but she recalled having met Roberts on a Saturday afternoon in July a dozen years earlier.

She claimed to have been bound three times, but the duct tape was loose and just a few strands remained on her head and wrists and legs for much of the police interview.

She claimed to be “ice cold” in the rain for 30 minutes, yet police and prosecutors say her clothes were not wet.

Prosecutors played the 911 tape in court Wednesday. In it, Phillips never asked for an ambulance for Roberts, despite telling police later she knew he was lying on the patio. And she had heard him curse. And she had heard a gunshot.

She claimed to have escaped her duct tape bondage with a door key on her wrist bracelet. She said she had read about such an escape in a magazine.

She claimed to have called 911 unsuccessfully twice before finally getting through, but cell phone records presented in court showed no such calls. Instead, records showed Phillips called her son twice before she finally did call 911.

Prosecutors have stated in court that there were inconsistencies in at least a dozen of her statements to police.

Late in her police interview the night of Roberts’ death, Phillips called Roberts a “wonderful man.”

She said of police, “They’ve got to get some DNA somewhere.”

Then she said, “If Melvin were alive, he never would have let me sit here and talk to y’all.”

But Phillips did talk. She talked and talked and talked, and the story she told to police changed repeatedly.

At one point she said of Roberts, “He hated the police. He thought you are just horrible.”

She claimed to “feel so guilty” about not helping Roberts, after saying she had walked within a dozen feet of him to call 911, then not returning to check on him.

Only after more than 20 minutes of talking to police, did Phillips finally ask an officer, “Was Melvin shot?”

Roberts was shot at, but not hit. He was beaten over the head and strangled.

More of what Phillips told police is expected in court today, including a videotaped re-enactment of her version of events performed at the crime scene days after Roberts was killed.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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