Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Global Impact: One-Time Socialite, 56, Found Guilty of Killing Her Ex-Husband with a Car-Bomb

According to The Associated Press, a once-prominent US socialite was found guilty Tuesday (April 7) in the 1996 car bomb killing of her ex-husband after spending years abroad living a lavish lifestyle across Europe.

Pamela Phillips, 56, was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder after less than three days of deliberations that began last week. She faces life in prison at her May 22 sentencing hearing.

Ms. Phillips cannot receive the death penalty because of her extradition from Austria, which has a treaty with the US that won't allow anyone to be extradited for prosecution if they face capital punishment.

Phillips' shook her head seconds after the verdict was read in Pima County Superior Court. Her attorneys said they will file an appeal.

COMMENT: During the trial that began in February 2014, Phillips' lawyers told jurors their client had nothing to gain from the death of businessman Gary Triano and that she was the victim of overzealous authorities who failed to follow other leads.

Prosecutors described Phillips as a gold digger who hired a former boyfriend to kill Triano to collect on a $2 million life insurance policy in order to maintain her extravagant lifestyle.

It's been nearly two decades since Triano died when his car detonated from a car-bomb as he was leaving a country club in the Tucson, AZ, area after playing a round of golf.

Prosecutors said Phillips paid ex-boyfriend Ronald Young $400,000 to carry out the hit. Young was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to two life terms in prison.

Prosecutors presented a portrait of a woman who grew accustomed to an upscale life and found herself struggling financially with an easy $2 million way out.

The state's case against her hinged largely on the purported secret arrangement between Phillips and Young, who the defendant dated while working as a real estate broker in Aspen, CO, after she divorced Triano.

Although Phillips claimed she had paid Young the $400,000 for assistance with business ventures and financial planning, prosecutors successfully argued the money was clearly payment for the "hit."

During the trial, in addition to witnesses, prosecutors used financial records and telephone conversations that Young secretly recorded during talks with Phillips. 

In one recording, Young appears to grow angry over not receiving his payments, telling Phillips, "You're going to be in a woman's prison for murder."

One prosecution witness, a longtime friend of Phillips, testified that Phillips once told her how easy it would be to hire someone to kill her husband.

Triano was a developer who made millions investing in Indian bingo halls and slot-machine parlors in Arizona and California before Congress authorized tribes to open full-service casinos. But after the real estate market declined and he lost control of his gambling interests, Triano went broke.

That's around the time Phillips filed for divorce, prosecutors said.

The couple, who had two children together, separated, but Phillips remained the beneficiary of Triano's insurance policy, paying the premiums herself.

Ms. Phillips eventually moved to Aspen and worked in real estate before meeting Young. Prosecutors said the two would later plot to kill Triano and collect on the policy.

After Triano's death, Young was on the run from a warrant for his arrest in Colorado on fraud charges while Phillips was sending him money for the "hit," eventually adding up to $400,000, prosecutors told jurors.

The investigation into Triano's killing stalled until Young's arrest in 2005 in Florida on the fraud charges. That's when both Phillips and Young became the key suspects in the Triano's death.

By then, Ms. Phillips had received the $2 million insurance payout and had left Aspen for a life overseas.

Phillips was later arrested in Austria in 2009 and extradited to Tucson.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.