It was 4:15 p.m. Friday, the end of the fifth day of a murder trial that had ground down to statements about evidence and bank drafts, when an explosion rocked the trial to its core.
There were no bombs or bullets, just testimony fireworks, rebuttal rockets.
Words that caromed through the courtroom had the entire room on the edge of its seat in a trial that already features a senior citizen defendant accused of having her boyfriend killed for money.
The testimony came from a bald, loud, combative, openly gay, silicone-injected, admitted black-market plastic surgeon, an admitted fence of stolen goods from guns to drugs, a check scammer and credit card forger and confidential informant in drug deals for at least 10 police agencies.
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Guy Blankenship claimed that Julia Phillips offered to pay him $10,000 to kill Melvin Roberts.
“When Ms. Phillips offered for me to kill him for $10,000, I turned her down,” testified Blankenship, 41, a Gaffney antique dealer who owned a store across the street from Phillips’ store.
Blankenship claimed that Phillips had heard about a murder-for-hire plot in another state and asked him to find people who would kill Roberts for money.
He then claimed that Phillips tried to blackmail him, using “something I had done illegally over my head to assist with Melvin’s murder.”
Blankenship said he told police even before Roberts was killed in 2010 that he had heard Phillips trying to arrange to have him killed, so he told Cherokee County deputies about it to make sure they knew he had nothing to do with it.
Those accusations came only after Blankenship claimed that Phillips had been buying black-market painkillers for at least a decade before she was charged with murder in Roberts’ death, all the while blowing through Roberts’ money to feed her pill habit.
And that only came after he admitted to being a professional stool pigeon who gets paid cash by undercover narcs to take down drug dealers from Greenville to Gastonia, N.C.
Through it all, the jurors sat rapt, astounded by Blankenship’s histrionics, his bold claims of performing black-market silicone injections up and down the East Coast, his verbal sparring with Phillips’ lawyer and the outrageousness of claims in a trial that prosecutors claim dovetails with what he claimed – that Phillips was a desperate, drug-addled woman who had Roberts killed for money after he planned to sever the relationship and leave her broke.
Blankenship started calmly, asked questions by prosecutor Kris Hodge. He admitted to being a criminal with convictions and pending charges in South Carolina and North Carolina. He admitted to setting up more than 100 drug dealers by wearing wires and carrying cameras into drug houses.
He met Phillips through a drug dealer in downtown Gaffney who peddled narcotic painkillers through a backroom drug den behind a store and video poker operation.
Phillips bought $80 Oxycontins and Oxycodones illegally for years, Blankenship testified, always paying cash – spending the money that was supposed to pay for clothing inventory in her store.
The store was a failing mess that several people had testified cost Melvin Roberts tens of thousands of dollars as he subsidized Phillips while the store fell into financial ruin.
Blankenship testified that just a month before Roberts was killed, he saw an argument between Roberts and Phillips over Phillips’ adult son – a convicted felon who admitted in court documents he had been a suspect in the Roberts killing, and is now serving prison time for drug possession and fraud.
Then Blankenship claimed that he knew a woman and man involved in a gruesome murder and assault in Virginia, where the woman had been bound by duct tape, but escaped after the man was slaughtered.
Phillips has claimed the same thing happened to her the night Roberts was killed.
A few times, Blankenship testified, Phillips asked in front of him about “how much it would cost to kill somebody.”
Specifically, Blankenship testified, Melvin Roberts.
The prosecutor asked Blankenship why he was willing to testify, and he claimed that despite his sordid life, “I have somewhat of a conscience. You don’t mess with kids. You don’t mess with old people. Melvin was old.”
But then Blankenship had to be cross-examined by Bobby Frederick, Phillips’ lawyer, who pounded Blankenship about his criminal lifestyle, his convictions, his taking cash to entrap people for cops, and more.
Blankenship reared back and talked over Frederick, at least three times forcing the judge to tell him to stop interrupting the lawyer and only answer the questions.
Frederick brought up times in wiretap recordings when Blankenship was an informant in which he used racial epithets. Blankenship claimed his gay partner is black.
Frederick slammed Blankenship about all the scams he has pulled – from teaching people how to write bad checks to debit card scams to the black-market plastic surgery. Frederick asked Blankenship repeatedly if everything he was involved in was illegal.
Blankenship himself had called much of what he has done, “illegal.”
Blankenship’s’ own alibi for Feb. 4, 2010, the day of the killings, is he was in Virginia Beach “pumping silicone” in black-marker plastic surgeries.
Blankenship admitted he had had the procedures himself, and was not licensed, is not a doctor, and had done drug deals and gun deals and more. The list went on.
Then Frederick asked the question that mattered the most at the end of Blankenship’s thrilling testimony: “You wouldn’t lie to us?”
“No,” Blankenship almost shouted.
Yet the jury has to decide if Blankenship is credible or just the first admitted gay black market plastic surgeon paid snitch confidential informant who claims murder for hire in the history of York County criminal trials.
And most importantly, the case is not about entertainment. It is about murder, the strangling death, of 79-year-old Melvin Roberts.
And whether prosecutors can prove Phillips was a part of that gruesome death.
The jury watched it all, frozen with attention. The crowd in the courtroom sat, jaws hanging open.
This past week this trial has featured accusations of lying cops and a lying scheming defendant. It has featured Phillips on hours of police videotapes telling stories that make no sense and contradict earlier statements and her lawyer saying she can’t keep her story straight to save her life, after the same lawyer said she is mentally incompetent.
The trial has shown this woman, Phillips, claiming to be held captive in the cold mud yet be found almost dry and clean, and allegations of gunshot residue on her clothes the night of the crime.
And now, as the week closed with more to come starting Tuesday, the trial’s only gay black market plastic surgeon and admitted paid police snitch claiming that Julia Phillips tried several times to hire a killer to whack Melvin Roberts.