The word "Julia's" was scraped off a window at 507 Limestone St. in downtown Gaffney on Wednesday. The stylish "J" that was on the door was scraped off, too.
Within minutes, nothing was left to beckon shoppers into the boutique run by the woman charged with killing her boyfriend after defrauding his company out of thousands of dollars.
It was a literal presentation of what has seemingly happened in Julia Phillips' hometown - she has disappeared from view.
"Used to be that people would come around after she was arrested, asking about it because everybody was in shock, but people don't ask much anymore," said Louis Smith, who runs a clothing business two doors down from where Julia's used to be.
Smith took a long look at the window without the "Julia's" he had seen every day for years before adding, "Most people were shocked at first, but now they think she did it. I sure do. Her story don't add up."
Phillips is charged with murder in the Feb. 4 strangulation death of legendary York attorney Melvin Roberts. Her arrest in May was a huge deal in York, where she lived with Roberts for almost 10 years, and was known around the city as his girlfriend.
But Gaffney is her hometown. Gaffney was where she went every day to run the store that once had high-end Merle Norman cosmetics, then a boutique of pricey clothes for women, then consignment clothing.
And now nothing. The store has been closed since Phillips' arrest in May.
'no longer exists'
The removal of the word "Julia's" from that store window by two people from Roberts Realty - the company owned by Melvin Roberts when he was alive - was symbolic of something else, too.
On Wednesday, Roberts' two sons, David and Ronnie Roberts, released a statement that "Julia's" boutique "no longer exists." They dissolved the company that court records show was formed by their father and managed by Phillips.
A sign on the window of that building on Limestone Street - which Phillips stood to inherit from Roberts on his death - now asks the public to call police if anybody has more information on Roberts' death.
Just that morning, a judge had ruled that Cherokee County prosecutors can move forward with charges that Phillips stole rent money from Roberts Realty.
It's a separate criminal case from the murder case, but prosecutors have said the alleged fraud could be part of the motive for the murder.
Phillips remains under house arrest in Gaffney in the home she once shared with her late husband, who died in 1999. She can only leave to go to the doctor and to court.
But on Wednesday, Phillips didn't even go to court. She sent her lawyer instead to that Gaffney courtroom two blocks from the "Julia's" building. Her lawyer tried to get a magistrate to drop the felony charges that Phillips stole $2,000 in rent from a Gaffney apartment owned by Roberts Realty by pocketing the cash, but the magistrate allowed the case to move forward.
Case is still a talker
Back in May, people would stop me on the street in Gaffney to talk about Phillips' arrest. On Wednesday, they weren't hunting me down, but they sure were talking about it.
And it's clear they still know the story.
"Everybody knows she got arrested for murder; if she did it she has to pay for it," said a man nursing a Pabst Blue Ribbon at Harold's bar a few doors down and across the street from the store that until Wednesday said "Julia's."
"And then her ex-husband who died all those years ago was dug up because they wanted to know how he died," said another guy at the bar.
Yes, Phillips' stepdaughters asked the Cherokee County Coroner to test their father's body after Phillips' arrest in the Roberts murder case. Bryant Phillips died in 1999 and is buried in Gaffney, but his body was exhumed and toxicology tests to determine how he died are pending.
"Then she got evicted by a judge from the house she lived in, or they tried to kick her out," said the man at the bar. He wore a campaign T-shirt for Joshua Queen, the probate judge who evicted Phillips. "That's the last thing I heard."
Yes, those same stepdaughters have sued to have Phillips removed from the Gaffney home she shared with Bryant Phillips until he died - the place she remains under house arrest. Phillips was evicted - but remains there as the eviction is appealed.
At another bar called Stick's nearby on Limestone Street, the whole story about Julia Phillips was bandied about like a badminton birdie.
"People here still talk about it all the time," said the bartender at Stick's, and they sure did Wednesday.
Then there were the two guys sitting at Stick's bar, nursing beers, just listening. They are in Gaffney, a place of 15,000, this week for contract work at a manufacturing plant.
They're here from Boston, a city of millions. They listened intently to every word about the murder in York of one of its most well-known citizens. And the alleged killer, a 66-year-old, 112-pound grandmother, who used to sell cosmetics down the street.
"Must have had an accomplice," said Lars Gulbrandsen of Boston.
"If she was just 112 pounds, I don't think she could do it alone," said Sean Hickey of Boston.
But then the talk at the bar turned to not just murder, but alleged stolen rent in Gaffney, eviction in Gaffney and house arrest in Gaffney - and an exhumed body in Gaffney.
"What is going on around here in Gaffney with this lady?" Gulbrandsen asked the bar's patrons.
"No wonder they scraped her name off the window."