Cherokee County probate judge Joshua Queen affirmed Monday his earlier decision to evict Julia Phillips from a Gaffney home.
Phillips, who is charged with the murder of former York Mayor Melvin Roberts, however, will likely stay in the house pending an appeal.
On June 18, Queen granted an injunction evicting Phillips from the house on Overbrook Drive. A previous husband's will gives her use of the house until she dies or remarries. Phillips, 66, was charged May 18 for the Feb. 4 strangling death of Roberts, her longtime boyfriend.
Her stepdaughters, Angela Shaheen and Lori Gaffney, want her removed from the home, filing suit in probate court. They claim Phillips' arrest changed the conditions of their father's wishes for the home. As trustees for the estate of Bryant Phillips, they want Julia Phillips and her son, William Hunter Stephens, removed from the home.
Charles Marchbanks Jr., Phillips' lawyer in the probate case, asked Queen to reconsider his ruling.
"This is her house," he argued during Monday's hearing. "We believe to take that away from her, even a short period of time, will require much more evidence.
"All we're asking the court to do is step back from the sensationalism that surrounds this case and examine the evidence and Phillips' affidavit... Strip all the made-for-TV moments; all the plaintiffs proved in the last hearing is the house was messy."
Phillips has been ordered by the circuit court to stay in the Overbrook Drive house while awaiting a trial for the death of Roberts, 79.
Staying with Roberts is one of several reasons Phillips' stepdaughters want Julia Phillips removed from the home. Other allegations include Phillips and her son damaged the house, that items were taken from the home, and that there had been illegal activity at the house, according to their testimony and court documents.
Bryant Phillips died in 1999.
Neither Julia Phillips, nor her son, attended the hearing. Her stepdaughters and family of Julia Phillips were in attendance.
Shaheen and Gaffney filed a suit in probate court not long after Julia Phillips was released on $75,000 bond in connection with the murder charges. She also faces fraud charges in Gaffney in connection with alleged mishandling of money owed to Roberts' realty company.
She filed a countersuit against her stepdaughters in July, alleging the eviction efforts are motivated by "unadulterated financial gain." That lawsuit seeks to remove Shaheen and Gaffney as trustees of their late father's estate.
While Queen affirmed his initial decision to remove Phillips from a home in Gaffney, Marchbanks can appeal this decision. An appeal would allow Phillips to remain in the house until a Common Pleas Court judge rules in the matter. Marchbanks was not available for comment after the hearing.
Phillips was charged more than three months after Roberts was killed. Police said her claim that she had been robbed and bound during a robbery attempt was a hoax. They said her story changed several times and that she had gunshot residue on her clothes after telling police she hadn't fired a gun in years.
Soon afterward, she was charged with stealing rent money from Roberts' realty company over several months starting before Roberts was killed. Prosecutors allege Roberts had planned to cut off the relationship before he was killed, and that he had already stopped paying Phillips' debts.
A preliminary hearing, the next step in the criminal proceedings, has not been scheduled, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said Monday.
After Phillips' arrest for murder, the coroner in Cherokee County last month exhumed Bryant Phillips' body to perform toxicology tests and an autopsy. Results from those tests are still not yet available, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said Monday.