Karlita Phillips sits inside an Abbeville County magistrate courtroom during her bond hearing Thursday morning in Abbeville.
( Matt Bruce | Index-Journal)
Two suspects are behind bars following arrests this week in an Abbeville fatal shooting from earlier this year.
Abbeville County deputies charged Tavirous Settles, a 17-year-old Greenwood teen, with murder Wednesday and booked Karlita Phillips, 39, of Greenwood, on one count of solicitation of murder. Their charges stem from the shooting death of Jamil Phillips, a 30-year-old Abbeville man who was gunned down March 25 in front of his childhood home at 1522 Old Douglas Mill Road. Prosecutors allege Settles ambushed the man as he returned home from his job at a Greenville CarMax. From testimony at a pair of court proceedings this week, it appears the female suspect orchestrated the killing by hiring Settles to commit the homicide.
Settles was already in custody at the Greenwood County Detention Center when investigators served him warrants in the case Wednesday. He has been detained there since June 13, when Greenwood County's multi-jurisdictional Violent Crimes Task Force arrested and charged him with murder in connection with a May slaying that left a 26-year-old Guatemalan native dead along Franklin Street in Greenwood.
The teen went before an 8th Circuit judge at the Greenwood County Courthouse for an arraignment Wednesday afternoon, during which he pleaded not guilty. The judge denied his bond on the charge, but advised his attorney he could re-petition the court to have bond set at a later date.
Karlita Phillips had her bond denied by an Abbeville County magistrate judge Thursday morning. She will now have to petition a circuit court judge to have it set. Eighth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Demetri Andrews asked the judge to deny her bond and said the suspect posed a flight risk, noting her charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
"Someone is dead. And based on what we know about the case, someone is dead because Ms. Phillips wished them dead," Andrews said. "We think that makes her a danger to the community."
According to an ACSO incident report, Phillips' parents told deputies they heard four gunshots ring out as the victim was walking up the steps of their front porch the night of the shooting. When the couple went outside, they found their son lying on the front porch. Officials said he had been shot multiple times. His key was in the front door of the family's home. His father Dale Phillips said he cradled the victim in his arms as he died.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division assisted Abbeville County deputies during the murder investigation. SLED agent Michael Collins was on hand for Settles' arraignment, and told the judge one of the victim's two brothers indicated he, not Jamil Phillips, might have been the target of the shooting.
Collins noted investigators linked Settles to the scene through DNA evidence located near the ranch-style brick house. Officers found cigarette butts in a wood line where they think the shooter laid in wait for Jamil Phillips. Officials think the suspect smoked the cigarettes while he waited for the victim to return home. Strands from the butts matched DNA sent to SLED for analysis in the Greenwood murder case in which Settles is a suspect.
Investigators then questioned the teen, who denied ever being at the residence, knowing any of the residents or having contact with any of them. That led officials to pursue charges against the man, Collins indicated.
The shooting came on the eve of first-term Abbeville County Sheriff Ray Watson's victory in the Democratic primary of the sheriff's race, about two months before he took office. It represented one of the first murders his administration inherited when he became the county's top lawman.
The development represents closure for the victim's family who languished nearly nine months in limbo awaiting an arrest in the case. The family issued a $10,000 reward in September seeking information leading to the arrest of their son's killer. His mother addressed the court through tears during Karlita Phillips' bond hearing Thursday morning.
"My son is dead, and we can't bring him back," Martha Phillips said. "Whoever was responsible for it needs to pay. This has caused me so much pain. You can never bring my baby back because of somebody's stupidity. You must pay for what you've done."
Officials did not immediately release information Wednesday. ACSO investigators and SLED agents will be on hand to release more details on the arrests during a press conference at the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office this afternoon.