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Man convicted of killing stepdaughters gets life without parole

September 04, 2013|By Jill Cowan

A man convicted of killing two of his stepdaughters during a 2006 birthday celebration for one of the victims was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prior to sentencing, Robert Lee Phillips addressed the courtroom and defiantly maintained that the deaths of Sabrina Taylor, 30, and Charlotte Johnson, 33, were accidents. He said he had simply been trying to disperse "gang bangers" who attended the party in his South Los Angeles yard.

"I think everyone in this room knows I didn't murder my wife's daughters," he said. "They want to sentence me to life in prison for something that was accidental."

He accused those who testified at his trial of conspiring against him. Attorneys, he said in a somewhat rambling but forceful statement, had coached them into lying about what had happened.

Prosecutors said Phillips, 66, and his stepdaughters had never gotten along, and that tensions had been escalating for years.

Those tensions finally bubbled over at the party for Taylor's 30th birthday. Prosecutors said Phillips grabbed a gun after drinking heavily and opened fire, killing the two sisters and shooting at other family members outside the house.

A jury found Phillips guilty of first-degree murder in Taylor's killing and second-degree murder in Johnson's killing, as well as the attempted murder of two family members. Because he used a firearm while committing those crimes, he is ineligible for parole.

Two previous trials had ended with hung juries.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy, who presided over all three trials, wasn't swayed by Phillips' statement.

"I've heard the evidence, I've heard the witnesses," she told Phillips. "What your statement was was an insult to these good people and it was an insult to the justice system."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Joy Roberts, who prosecuted the case through its most recent trial, said she was "happy this family finally has justice," but "completely disgusted at the lack of remorse this defendant showed."

Phillips' attorney, Louis Sepe, said the case was "one of the most tragic" he'd ever worked on.

"It was like a roller coaster that didn't stop," he said. "I was hoping for voluntary manslaughter, but the jury didn't see it that way."

Paulette Phillips, Robert Phillips ex-wife and the mother of the two slain women, said she was "thankful" for the life sentence.

Still, she said, she struggled with the fact that someone she had once loved gunned down her children.

"He was supposed to be the protector of me and my family," she said.


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Twitter: @jillcowan

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