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Girl, 16, Convicted of Torturing, Killing 72-Year-Old Woman

January 04, 2002|GENE MADDAUS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A jury convicted a teenage girl Thursday of torturing and killing a 72-year-old woman in the victim's Rialto home in 2000.

Christy Phillips, 16, was tried as an adult and faces 34 years to life in prison at sentencing Jan. 31, Deputy Dist. Atty. Joanne Uhlman said.

The jury of 11 women and one man deliberated about seven hours over two days before deciding that Phillips killed Manuela "Nellie" Fyock with a wood-splitting wedge, a tire iron, a pipe wrench and a hatchet on July 22, 2000.

The Fyock family hugged as the verdict was read in San Bernardino County Superior Court in Fontana.

"It felt good. It felt real good," said Mark Maysey, Fyock's stepson. "This is a very big step. I've often wondered what people really, truly meant by closure, but now I think I know."

Phillips stared ahead when the verdict was read, then looked down. Her mother, Anita Phillips, sat stone-faced.

Over four days of testimony, Phillips recanted her videotaped confession and testified that a 13-year-old friend was the killer.

But prosecutor Uhlman said: "I'm very pleased the jury was able to see through the defendant's lies. I get concerned when lies are presented to the jury. My concern was that someone would fall for it."

Defense lawyer John Crouch argued that Phillips' friend tricked her into confessing. The defendant said the friend told her that if both confessed, the police would not know whom to blame and that they would be released. But the girl told police that Phillips was the killer.

In her confession, Phillips said she went to Fyock's house to adopt a cat but became angry when Fyock treated her as if she were a thief.

The friend was released days after the murder and was not charged. She testified at a preliminary hearing, but then exercised her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to testify at the trial.

The jury forewoman said she was shocked by the crime. Without the taped confession, she said, "it would have been a tossup between the two of them."

Crouch tried unsuccessfully to keep the tape out of the trial, arguing that Phillips was not given a chance to call her mother before being interviewed.

"Once you ring a bell, it's hard to un-ring it," he said. "It's hard to convince a jury that someone gave a false confession."

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