NBC’s ‘Dateline: Death in the Driveway’ tells the horrific story of how former York Mayor Melvin Roberts was brutally murdered in the driveway of his Cherokee County home on February 4, 2010. It highlights every aspect of the case and shows us how this is a crime that remains, to this date, at least partially unsolved. The inconsistencies in the story, the evidence, the greed, and the money trail that led the officials to arrest and charge Melvin’s own girlfriend, Julia Philips, for his murder are all revealed in this. Julia maintained her innocence, but in the end, she was convicted. Curious to know about what happened to her after her arrest? Here’s everything we know.
Who Was Julia Phillips?
Julia Phillips was Melvin Roberts’ girlfriend of 10 years. On February 4, 2010, she called the police to tell them about his murder. And then, when they arrived, she had duct tape wrapped around her face and wrists. Julia told the officials that it was an attempted robbery gone wrong and that she had been held outdoors, in the rainy night, for about half an hour by an unknown, dark-skinned, black or Hispanic attacker. From the very beginning, though, the investigators believed her story to be a lie, especially because her clothes were not wet and the duct tape on her was not tight or otherwise consistent with what should have been used for proper binding.
And so, they spent months accumulating evidence against her – evidence which included gunshot residue on the clothes that she had been wearing that day. Even her phone records pointed towards her involvement, as she had called her son, William Hunter Stephens, twice before she called 911. Therefore, on May 18 of that same year, Julia Phillips was arrested outside the Gaffney store she ran in the building that Melvin Roberts left to her in his will. Official documents state that Julia partnered up with at least one more individual, if not more, to kill her boyfriend. Her reasoning behind it? Melvin was planning to break up with her, which meant that she would no longer be financially secure.
In June, Julia was granted a $75,000 bond and was placed under house arrest, with an electronic GPS monitoring her movements at all times. The house that she lived in during this time was a Gaffney home where she resided with her late husband, Bryant Phillips until he died in 1999. Despite Bryan’s daughters asking for her removal, Julia stayed there until her criminal trial was over. During this 2013 week-long trial, she maintained that she had no hand in her boyfriend’s murder. But, because of all the evidence against her, including the fact that she stole money from Melvin before he passed away, to blow on drugs, was enough for the jury to convict her – not of murder, but of accessory to murder. Julia was then sentenced to life in prison.
How Did Julia Phillips Die?
As soon as Julia Phillips was sentenced to prison, from behind bars, she started fighting for the rights of her late husband’s home, the one where she lived while she was under house arrest. And, after that, in 2015, she filed for an appeal, claiming that York police had no evidence against her. The prosecutors disagreed and clarified that the reason she was convicted was because of the evidence. The appeals case hearing was set to begin in court in late 2016, but, it never transpired because of Julia’s passing. Julia Phillips, 72, believed to be the oldest female killer in South Carolina’s prison system, died on July 6, 2016.
State Department of Corrections records shows that for a week before her passing – from June 23 to June 29 – Julia was taken out of the Graham Correctional Institution in Columbia – the prison for women where she had been incarcerated since her 2013 conviction – for treatment of an undisclosed medical problem. Then, on July 6, she was rushed to the hospital once again, where she died. The autopsy, performed by Richland County Coroner, revealed that Julia Phillips suffered from heart disease and passed away from natural causes. She died in the hospital, and with her, died any major chance of catching whoever she worked with to murder Melvin. (Featured Image Credit: Oxygen / Snapped)
Read More: Where Is Julia’s Son Now?