On the morning of Feb. 7, 2010, two days and a few hours after she allegedly had been attacked and her longtime boyfriend killed, Julia Phillips spoke to police for more than 70 minutes. The interview was recorded on video.
Here is how many times in that interview Phillips, who had lived with Melvin Roberts for 10 years, asked if Roberts’ killer had been caught.
This is how many times Phillips demanded that police catch the killer of the man she loved.
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This is how many tears she shed for the love of her life in those 70 minutes.
And in court, her own lawyer on Thursday continued to ask the police who arrested her to confirm that his client “exaggerates,” and “can’t be consistent to save her life.”
That is not the prosecutor saying that Phillips’ stories are all over the place about anything from cosmetics to shoes: It is her lawyer, Bobby Frederick, trying valiantly to save Phillips.
Thursday was the fourth day of Phillips’ trial on charges that she murdered the former York mayor, who practiced law in York County for 55 years. Her motive, prosecutors say, was greed; Roberts left $150,000 in real estate to Phillips in his will.
Phillips’ videotaped statements, officers and prosecutors say, were her attempt to mislead them with a phony story of robbery by an assailant who was either black or Hispanic.
Frederick and Phillips say she was a victim, even as Frederick continues to point out to almost every witness prosecutors have called that his client can’t tell a full story that makes sense about anything.
Half the day Thursday was taken up with more of the video interviews of Phillips, who is at least 69 but could be as old as 72. From the time of Roberts’ killing until Phillips was arrested in May 2010, she gave at least a dozen statements attorneys described as “rambling.”
She told a story that went on for several minutes about an air conditioner atop a building in Gaffney, Roberts’ apartments, and more that police never asked about.
At one point, Phillips asked a police officer whether the case, if it were ever solved, would have to go to court.
The police officer replied: “It’s a murder.”
Phillips then added: “If I’da screamed, they would have shot me, too.”
Phillips told police dozens of times her mouth was covered with duct tape during the attack.
At one point, Phillips told police her story “is not a hoax. You got to believe me.” However, no police officer had, to that point, told Phillips that they didn’t believe her.
Testimony Thursday showed Phillips still had not seen a doctor three days after claiming to have been attacked and thrown to the ground where she lay in the mud, afraid for her life.
She spoke of Roberts’ heart problems, a medical condition, saying he “didn’t have long to live.”
“I think Melvin knew his days were not long, but we didn’t think they would be this short,” Phillips told investigators.
Even though she claimed to have heard a gunshot during the attack, and that she had seen Roberts’ body at the funeral home, she never asked police up to that point, three days afterward, how Roberts died.
He died with a zip tie around his neck that someone used to choke the life out of him.
Police pressed her continually on who might hurt Roberts. Phillips brought up to police a black defendant Roberts had represented successfully in a 2009 murder case, saying that a black gang member who was part of that case might have had a beef with Roberts.
Then she claimed to remember a Hispanic client of Roberts who was mad at him after the client was supposed to get a large sum of money in a case but did not.
Police testified that both of those claims were checked out but led nowhere.
Then she told police, in a later phone call, that two black tenants of Roberts’ realty company told her “all this sex stuff” and more, and that they lied about her taking rent money that was supposed to be going to Roberts.
She even claimed to have been bothered before the killing by “weird phone calls” containing Hispanic rap music.
In hours of interviews, York Police Lt. Dale Edwards had called Phillips “sweetheart” and “Miss Julia” and interviewed her for hours. He chuckled and laughed with her and later testified that she became a “person of interest” almost immediately because of Phillips’ “trying to misdirect us.”
On cross-examination, Frederick asked Edwards: “Is it fair to say Julia exaggerates?”
He asked if it was fair to say that Phillips can’t be consistent to save her life.
He asked if it was true that Phillips’ stories were “rambling.”
He asked if it was fair to say that Phillips “never gave you a straight answer to any questions.”
Then Frederick asked Dale Edwards if one last thing was fair to say about Phillips: “She wants attention?”
Phillips sure has gotten attention.
She has had the attention of police and prosecutors since soon after the killing and after statements she gave over three months.
And this week she has had the attention of the 12 jurors who will decide whether she goes to prison, possibly for the rest of her life.