York Police: Reward to be offered in Melvin Roberts 2010 murder case

A reward will be offered in the partially unsolved murder of former York Mayor Melvin Roberts, police officials said.

Roberts, 79, a lawyer in York for 55 years, was strangled outside his home in February 2010.

His longtime girlfriend, Julia Phillips, was arrested three months later after claiming she had been a victim in the attack. Despite her denials of involvement, police dismissed her story and Phillips was convicted of murder in September 2013. She is serving life in prison.

Prosecutors convinced a jury that Phillips killed Roberts over money. At the time of the crime, Roberts had cut off all money to Phillips and was going to cut her out of his will after severing the relationship. Before he was able to cut ties with Phillips, he was strangled.

Prosecutors said Phillips had a prescription narcotics problem and tried to get a hit man to kill Roberts in a murder-for-hire plot. Phillips was also convicted of stealing $2,000 in rent money from Roberts’ business around the same time Roberts was killed.

Details about the reward and the status of the investigation that never closed despite Phillips’ conviction will be released Friday at a 10 a.m. news conference, York Police Chief Andy Robinson said Monday.

Police and prosecutors have argued that Phillips, 69 at the time, did not act alone in the crime where Roberts was shot at, hit over the head, and eventually strangled with a zip tie. No other assailants have ever been identified by York Police detectives and state investigators.

Phillips’ son, William Hunter Stephens, an ex-con currently serving prison time from drug and other crimes, admitted in court documents that he was a suspect but was never charged in the case, which gained regional and even national coverage.

On June 26 at 10 p.m., the television network Investigation Discovery will air a special on the case from its Southern Fried Homicide show called “Romance is Dead.”

Related stories from Rock Hill Herald