Andrew Dys

Five years later, search continues for former York mayor’s killers

It seems impossible that Wednesday will mark five years since legendary York lawyer Melvin Roberts, former mayor of the city, was strangled outside his home.

The crime really did happen on a dark and stormy night, and York became nationally known because of murder.

But the killing was not the most salacious, tawdry, tabloid part of the crime. The lead suspect stole the show after she took money from the dead man and was convicted.

There was intrigue – nobody was arrested for months until Roberts’ longtime girlfriend, Julia Phillips, a senior citizen with a narcotic painkiller habit and a dwindling cash flow, was charged. She was accused of scheming to try to get money from Roberts and then making up a story about being attacked with Roberts the night he was killed.

Phillips was on the cover of the National Enquirer, referred to as the potential Black Widow. She also has been the subject of three national TV documentaries, all of them following The Herald’s coverage.

Yet Phillips, convicted in 2013, maintains her innocence while she cleans toilets as the oldest female inmate in South Carolina’s prison system at age 71 – or older, as some records have her age at 73.

The past remains excruciating for Roberts’ two sons, Ronnie and David, who have ponied up $10,000 in reward money for any tip that leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone who helped Phillips kill Roberts.

“The leads we have gotten have helped law enforcement to narrow their focus,” David Roberts said. “Law enforcement can better concentrate their resources and continue to work the case hard. I believe that hard work, patience, and that one lead we need will solve the case. I have also learned: It is not what you think, it is what you can prove. Everyone believes we will solve dad’s case. I believe in my heart we will. The question is when.”