Judge concerned about robbery suspect's safety

YORK -- A judge Thursday said the man accused of shooting four people during recent robberies could be in danger if released from jail.

Bond Magistrate Dan Malphrus denied bond for Phillip Fleming Watts Jr., 20, saying, "I believe this is the place you need to be right now."

Police say Watts has admitted to seven robberies since October in Rock Hill and Fort Mill.

Thursday's bond hearing dealt with five charges stemming from a Feb. 5 robbery at John Boy's Valero in Fort Mill. The store's clerk and former Fort Mill Mayor Charlie Powers were shot during the incident.

Powers was treated and released from the hospital the next morning. Information on the condition of the clerk, Yen Nguyen, was unavailable Thursday.

While explaining part of his reasoning for keeping Watts in custody, Malphrus said there was concern for Watts' safety and that, "Nobody's going to bother him in here."

Watts' attorney, public defender B.J. Barrowclough, said he had not heard of any specific threats against Watts, but that he is aware of general community outrage about the robbery-shootings.

Watts already was denied bond on charges related to an attempted robbery and shooting last week at Cash on the Spot in Rock Hill. Ida Neal Lord, the customer who was shot during that incident, was in critical condition at Carolinas Medical Center on Thursday evening, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Suspect's lawyer plans to challenge allegations

Charges are expected today in connection with a robbery and shooting at Saltwater Seafood Market on Jan. 28, Lt. Jerry Waldrop of the Rock Hill Police Department said.

Authorities said Watts confessed to these and other area robberies. But Watts' attorney said his client plans to challenge the allegations against him.

"We are disappointed, but not surprised," Barrowclough said after the bond hearing at Moss Justice Center. "Mr. Watts looks forward to fighting these charges in court."

Barrowclough said he could not explain Watts' current state of mind other than to say, "Obviously, it's a serious situation, and we're taking it seriously."

Watts was being held Thursday at the York County Detention Center.