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Jury convicts man in shooting deaths of his two stepdaughters

ShootingsHomicideJustice SystemCrime, Law and Justice

A jury Monday convicted Robert Lee Phillips for the 2006 murders of his two stepdaughters.

After more than two days of deliberations, jurors found Phillips, 66, guilty of first-degree murder for killing Sabrina Taylor, 30, and second-degree murder for fatally shooting her sister, Charlotte Johnson, 33.

Phillips, who was married to the victims’ mother, went on a rampage at his South Los Angeles home during a crowded birthday party for Taylor on the night of Sept. 2, 2006.

Prosecutors said a quarrel with Phillips' stepdaughters coupled with a history of their mistreatment enraged him so much that he "hunted" them down, fatally shooting them both.

"That fatal, final straw was the disrespect they showed to him," Deputy Dist. Atty. Joy Roberts told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury during closing arguments last month. "He made the decision to kill, and he killed them both."

Defense attorney Louis Sepe rejected the notion that any grudge existed between the sisters and Phillips. His client had been drinking heavily, Sepe said, and felt threatened by gang members at the party at his home.

In the “chaos and pandemonium,” Sepe said, Phillips shot the women, unintentionally killing Johnson.

The fatal bullet to the heart that killed Taylor, Sepe argued, came from a different gun -- the same gun which initially injured Phillips, precipitating his drunken, defensive shooting.

But prosecutors argued that Phillips’ injuries came at the end of the night’s carnage, when a party-goer opened fire in order to subdue him.

Phillips was tried twice before for the crimes.

In the first trial in February 2012, the jury acquitted him of first-degree murder in Johnson's death and deadlocked in the murder charge for Taylor's death.

Jurors in the second trial last fall deadlocked on every charge, including second-degree murder for Johnson's death and first-degree murder for Taylor's.

The jury Monday also convicted Phillips on two counts of attempted murder. He faces life in prison without parole. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 4.

 

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Twitter: @mattthamiltonn

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

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