Did chance at justice for former York mayor die with killer in prison?
Last July, Julia Phillips died in prison at age 72. She was convicted in 2013 of the Feb. 4., 2010, strangling death of her longtime boyfriend, former York Mayor Melvin Roberts. She died claiming she was a victim, not a killer.
Today, on the anniversary of the slaying that shocked York and became national news played out over television screens across America for years, the question remains: Did any chance of finding anyone else die with Phillips?
Police and Roberts’ family aren’t giving up.
Phillips was convicted in 2013 of accessory to murder and sentenced to life in prison, despite her claims that she was a victim in a robbery the night Roberts, 79, was killed. Roberts was found strangled, after being shot at, outside his York home. Phillips called 911 to report finding Roberts and claiming she was robbed but, from the beginning, police didn’t believe her.
Prosecutors used her changing statements, gunshot residue on her clothes, and other witnesses -- including one who said Phillips tried to hire someone to kill Roberts -- to convict Phillips. Prosecutors described Phillips as a desperate, drug-addicted woman who killed Roberts before he could change his will and cut her off from an inheritance.
Law enforcement and Roberts’ family said then, and still believe, Phillips did not work alone.
“I had always hoped that she would do the right thing and tell us what she did and why she did it,” said Melvin Roberts’ older of two sons, David Roberts. “She never told us. The why died with her. She died in prison where she should have died. Now we are hoping someone will come forward, have the compassion for our family, and we can finally find out what happened on February the 4, 2010.”
Police have never identified any other person involved.
Phillips’ only admission was to stealing $2,000 in rent money from Roberts’ realty company around the same time Melvin Roberts, a longtime lawyer and businessman, was killed.
After Phillips died, police searched her prison cell but have not charged anyone else. The case remains under investigation and detectives still are looking at leads, said York Police Department Chief Andy Robinson.
“This case will remain active until we identify who Julia Phillips’ accomplice or accomplices were,” Robinson said. “We will investigate this case until all parties involved are brought to justice.”
If the law enforcement and family theory is true, it’s possible a killer remains on the loose.
“Feb. 4 is the seventh anniversary of his murder and although Julia was convicted, most people remain convinced she did not act alone ...,” said Ronnie Roberts, Melvin Roberts’ other son. “If this person can murder once he can murder again.”
Roberts’ sons praised the York Police Department’s continued work on the case. A there’s still a $10,000 reward the family offered years ago for any information that leads to the conviction of others involved. Both sons say Phillips got what she deserved. But finding anyone else involved is now the focus.
“We will never stop working the case,” David Roberts said. “So that my family can rest. So that my father can rest in peace, and we can finally know what really happened that night.”
Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the York Police Department at 803-684-4141, or York County Crimestoppers at 1-877-409-4321.