Julia Phillips withdraws civil appeal on house; court reunion with son canceled

adys@heraldonline.comOctober 25, 2013 

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    For past coverage of the death of Melvin Roberts and Julia Phillips’ murder conviction, go to heraldonline.com.

The lawyer for convicted killer Julia Phillips on Friday withdrew her appeal of an eviction order from her former home, canceling what would have been a Monday courthouse reunion with her son. The 68-year-old woman is serving life in prison for the 2010 strangling death of former York Mayor Melvin Roberts; the son, serving seven years for felony drug and fraud charges, was a suspect in the slaying.

Phillips’ lawyer, Charles Marchbanks Jr., said he decided to withdraw the appeal of a 2010 probate court temporary injunction that evicted Phillips and her son from the home of her late husband, Bryant Phillips. But that doesn’t mean Phillips is giving up her claims to the life estate under her late husband’s will despite being in prison for life, Marchbanks said.

“We have never had a trial in the case – this was just an appeal of an injunction,” Marchbanks said.

Both Brandy McBee, Cherokee County clerk of court, and David Massey, the lawyer for Phillips’ stepdaughters who sued to have Phillips and her son evicted, confirmed the cancellation. No date has been set for a trial to determine Phillips’ claims to the house owned by her late husband, Bryant, who died in 1999.

Phillips, 68, who abused narcotic prescription drugs and spent thousands of dollars on illegal pills, was convicted last month of murder for her role of plotting to have her longtime boyfriend Roberts killed before he could change his will, throw her out of his house, and cut off her money supply. She was sentenced to life without parole, despite law enforcement admitting that the person or people she worked with in the killing has never been caught.

Roberts, 79, a lawyer for 55 years, was beaten over the head, shot at, then strangled with a zip tie outside his York home on Feb. 4, 2010. Phillips, who lived with Roberts for 10 years, claimed she was a victim that night, but she was arrested for plotting the crime after police said her story of being robbed and tied up was bogus.

“Nothing this awful woman does surprises me anymore, so her trying stunts even from prison is just another of the terrible things she has done,” said Ronnie Roberts, one of Melvin Roberts’ sons.

Phillips’ son, William Hunter Stephens, 50, pleaded guilty in March to drug and fraud charges after more than a decade of stealing the identity of family members for narcotics, utilities, cable TV and more. He is serving a seven-year sentence. Stephens was arrested in January 2012. But before pleading guilty, he admitted he was a suspect in the Roberts slaying when he claimed his arrest was caused by police trying to question him further in the death.

Phillips is still scheduled to be in court Nov. 12 to face allegations of probation violation. Phillips pleaded guilty in 2011 to stealing $2,000 in rent from Melvin Roberts. She was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay restitution. She allegedly is now $900 in arrears and probation officials plan to ask a judge Nov. 12 that the arrears be turned into a civil judgment against Phillips, said Pete O’Boyle, spokesman for the S.C. Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services.

Andrew Dys * 803-329-4065

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