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York murder suspect's son held in Gaffney

The son of the woman charged with murder in the killing of prominent York attorney Melvin Roberts has been arrested on unrelated charges, authorities say.

Police in Gaffney arrested William Hunter Stephens, 46, on Tuesday after an officer saw him driving without a valid license, police records show.

Stephens was with his mother, Julia Phillips, 66, when she was arrested last week in connection with the Feb. 4 slaying of her longtime boyfriend and former York mayor Melvin Roberts. Stephens and Phillips lived together on Overbrook Drive in Gaffney before her arrest.

His recent charges do not relate to the strangling death of Roberts, 79, outside his York home, York Police Chief Bill Mobley said. The Roberts cases is still under investigation.

"We've talked to him," Mobley said of Stephens. "He is the son of a suspect."

"These are things he did in the past. His arrest was initiated by driving a car without a license. He kind of brought it on himself."

Stephens was arrested Tuesday afternoon after a Gaffney police officer saw Stephens driving a Gold Ford Explorer at North Logan and Holland streets, according to a police report. That officer knew Stephens didn't have a valid driver's license.

Stephens was charged with driving under suspension, third offense and his bond was set at $2,000.

Stephens has an extensive criminal history, according to the State Law Enforcement Division, including charges related to acquiring medication and drugs by false pretense.

Stephens also faces 2-year-old and decade-old charges related to prescription medication, records show. He was served Tuesday with a warrant alleging he obtained Methadose (a brand of methadone) from a pharmacy in late 2008 with a forged prescription, a violation of the state's drug distribution law. That arrest warrant was signed by a judge in December 2008. In that case a magistrate set a $10,000 surety bond.

Police are also holding Stephens on a 14-year-old bench warrant from Cherokee County General Sessions Court in connection with a 1995 case for obtaining prescription drugs by false pretense. The warrant was issued the following year after Stephens failed to appear in court.

Since then, Stephens has been arrested at least 10 times in South Carolina, a State Law Enforcement Division background check shows. The charges include check fraud, fighting, driving-related, and more related to drugs.

While Stephens sits in a Cherokee County jail Thursday, his mother, Phillips, is being held at the detention center in York County.

Phillips' attorney, Bobby Frederick of Myrtle Beach, has asked for a bond hearing. The bond hearing has not been scheduled, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said Wednesday.

South Carolina Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal appointed a judge to hear Phillips' case, according to an order The Herald received Thursday. Toal appointed Judge Derham Cole from the Seventh Judicial Circuit to hear her case. Cole is a Spartanburg native who has served as a circuit judge since 1992.

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