YORK — Taped and bound in the cold, wet mud, Julia Phillips said two prayers the night her longtime boyfriend and former York Mayor Melvin Roberts was strangled to death in his driveway.
Her first prayer was that God would send her an angel to help free her from gray duct tape she claimed to police an Hispanic attacker wrapped around her eyes, head, wrists and ankles, said Scott Williams, a former investigator with the State Law Enforcement Division who interviewed Phillips about two weeks after Roberts' murder.
The second prayer: "I prayed for God to let him die," Williams said Tuesday.
That "him" was Roberts, who Phillips later told police could be mean and "belligerent" about the store he owned but she managed in Gaffney, Williams said.
Phillips is standing trial for Roberts' 2010 murder. He was found dead, strangled by a zip tie, in front of the patio door of his Roberts Avenue home on Feb. 4 Phillips' birthday.
Police and prosecutors have claimed Phillips conspired with a second, unidentified suspect to kill Roberts because he planned to end their relationship and had already started cutting her off financially. Testimony last week showed that Roberts paid all of Phillips' bills, including her health benefits and operating budget for her store, Julia's Inc.
Business went south and Roberts made Phillips solely responsible for the store's bills at a time her bank account held less than $2.
Phillips has claimed that she was attacked by an Hispanic man who bound her with duct tape and wanted money. That attacker later apparently hit Roberts with a metal pipe before firing a gun.
The attacker never stole any money and, during her interview with SLED, Phillips was unsure why, Williams said.
Williams read aloud his interview with Phillips, pointing out her inconsistent statements.
Williams said he and then-York Police Chief Bill Mobley questioned Phillips about her inconsistency in identifying her suspect, her conflicting statements to police, her claims that she was able to see Roberts' truck's headlights and her attacker's tan jacket though her eyes were taped shut and her different stories to police about when she actually saw Roberts' body.
In one statement, she told authorities she saw Roberts' still body when she climbed into her sports utility vehicle after freeing herself from duct tape. In a subsequent statement, she said she saw her boyfriend on the ground as she walked from behind the brick wall where her attacker dragged her.
She also told Williams and Mobley her ex-husband, Bryant Phillips, died of a medical malpractice incident. In earlier statements, she said he died from a rare form of cancer.
Phillips never gave a direct answer about her conflicting statements, William said. Instead, she denied all involvement in Roberts' death.
A month after Robert's murder, she called Williams again, saying she heard her assailant's voice at BiLo two weeks earlier. She even asked police about the possibility that Roberts' sons might have something to do with his slaying, Williams said.
On cross examination from Bobby Frederick, Phillips' Myrtle Beach attorney, Williams said SLED took DNA samples from 70 people in an effort to match them with DNA found on the zip tie used to kill Roberts.
None of those 70 samples matched the DNA, he said.
Adrienne Hefney, a SLED forensic analyst, said DNA found on the duct tape used to bind Phillips belonged to Phillips and one unidentified female who could have very well been a store clerk, manufacturer or anyone else who might have handled the tape.
The zip tie tested positive for Roberts' DNA and one "minor contributor" who she remained unidentified.
A billy club and axe handle police confiscated from Phillips' house after her May 2010 arrest tested positive for William Hunter Stephens, her son. But, after some prodding from Frederick, Hefney said the DNA match does not show that those weapons were used during the crime.
John Roberts, a SLED gunshot residue expert, testified that he found gunshot residue particles on the black and white shirt Phillips wore the night of the murder.
He also found a certain type of lead particle indicating that the clothing item had been in a "high heat and high pressure" situation, like firing a gun.
"It would be virtually impossible" for residue to land on Phillips if she had been behind a wall when shots were fired at her boyfriend, Roberts said.
Gunshot residue, he said, can be transferred if a person fires a gun, if they're near another person who has fired a gun or if they touch something else that already has gunshot residue on it.
Earlier Tuesday, Diane Rayfield, a friend to both Roberts and Phillips, said the couple's relationship was on "rocky" ground. Roberts began suffering from health problems while his relationship with Phillips began to deteriorate so much so that Roberts would no longer "touch" Phillips.
Phillips had told Rayfield that she and Roberts had sex "first thing...every morning."
Weeks before Roberts' death, Rayfield and her husband, Dennis Rayfield Roberts' friend and business partner spent time with the couple at their home. Things seemed "tense," Diane Rayfield said.
At Roberts' memorial service, Phillips laughed and joked, Rayfield said.
"You would have thought she was at a party," she said.
Rayfield testified that she once asked Phillips what she would do if Roberts died.
"She wasn't worried about it because she would be well taken care of," Rayfield said. "She'd be well taken care of the rest of her life."
In her interview with SLED, Phillips told Williams and Mobley that she already knew what was in Roberts' will. She would receive $150,000 worth of property, along with any car she wanted, with the exception of Roberts' Cadillac.
"When you lay your life down for a man, look at what you get," she told Williams.
Check back later for more details on this developing story