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Woman wants appellate acquittal in ex-SC mayor’s death

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A Gaffney woman has asked the state Court of Appeals to acquit her in the killing of the former mayor of York, WBTV-TV reported Monday.

Julia Phillips, 71, is serving life in prison for the murder of her boyfriend. Prosecutors said that Phillips arranged the death of 79-year-old Melvin Roberts because the prominent attorney was preparing to end their relationship and cut off financial support.

Roberts was killed in his driveway in 2010. Authorities said that someone hit him in the head, shattering his skull and forcing him to the ground. The assailant fired a gunshot nearby to keep Roberts from fighting back, then put a zip tie round his neck, keeping a foot on his back for traction, authorities have said.

Investigators have not found the person who actually killed Roberts. In the appeal, Phillips’ attorney wrote that he thinks there wasn’t sufficient evidence to warrant a conviction.

“More than five years after his death, Melvin’s killer remains at large,” attorney Michael Scott wrote. “A reward is currently available for his or her arrest and conviction. In the meantime, someone had to be charged and convicted. That someone was Julia.”

At trial, prosecutors said Phillips’ story about that night didn’t match the evidence. She said she was at Roberts’ home when a man came and demanded money. Having none, Phillips said she was then tied up and gagged with duct tape.

Roberts came home about 30 minutes later and was attacked, according to Phillips, who said she was eventually able to cut through the tape with a key and call 911.

But only a few strands of Phillips’ hair were stuck to the duct tape, and Roberts still had more than $100 in his wallet when his body was found. Investigators also showed Phillips’ phone records, which indicated she called her home in Gaffney twice before calling 911.

Tests showed gunshot residue on her clothes even though she said she hadn’t been near anyone firing a gun in years.

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