District officer convicted of murdering mistress, baby in Prince George's -- Gazette.Net


This story was updated at 10:42 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2013.

In a tense courtroom with nearly 15 Prince George's County sheriff's deputies, a county circuit court jury announced its verdict Thursday in the case of a Washington, D.C., police officer accused of murdering his 20-year-old mistress and their 11-month-old daughter: guilty on all counts.

The victims' family and friends, filling one side of the courtroom, wept when the verdict in the two-week trial was announced after less than two hours of deliberations.

Richmond Phillips of Hillcrest Heights was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder in addition to handgun and child abuse charges. Phillips, 40, could get life in prison at sentencing, which is scheduled for March 22.

Phillips is currently suspended without pay from the Metropolitan Police Department.

According to prosecutors, Phillips shot and killed Wynetta Wright at a Hillcrest Heights park May 31, 2011, and dragged her body into the woods. He then drove off in her vehicle with their daughter, Jaylin Wright, then abandoned her and left her to “roast” inside the overheated Saturn Vue, prosecutors said.

Both victims' bodies were found days later, prosecutors said.

“He pulled out a .22 off-duty handgun and pointed it at the back of her head and killed her in the coldest blood there is,” said Assistant State's Attorney Wes Adams. “Then he took his daughter, his own flesh and blood, and parked her in broad sunlight to bake and cook until she was dead.”

During the trial, expert witnesses testified that the vehicle would have been more than 125 degrees while Jaylin Wright was inside, and estimated that at that temperature the baby would have died within three hours.

Victims' family members said they were happy to hear the verdict as they continue to mourn their lost family members.

“He's a liar and a killer and now he's gone forever,” said Wyvetta Wright, the victims' mother and grandmother. “He's the devil. Anyone who can do something like that just doesn't have a heart and doesn't deserve to be here.”

During the trial, defense attorney Brian Denton said there was not enough clear evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Phillips was the killer. He suggested that someone else was at the Hillcrest Heights park after Phillips left and was responsible for the murders.

“I know nobody likes a liar and a cheater. Even though the evidence doesn't show he's a murderer, it shows he's a liar and a cheater,” Denton said during closing arguments.

Video footage of Phillips being questioned by Prince George's police officers was played during the trial. The officers were investigating the missing persons reports and the video shows Phillips telling investigators he hadn't seen Wynetta Wright in over a year.

The state produced DNA evidence that matched Phillips to the vehicle and showed his phone records that put him at the scene near the time of the killing. Prosecutors also produced video surveillance from the Hillcrest Heights Community Center that showed Phillips and Wynetta Wright at the scene just prior to the killing.

Prosecutors said Phillips and Wynetta Wright were scheduled for a paternity test and child support hearing, and claimed that Phillips was trying to avoid paying child support because his connection to Wynetta Wright was causing a rift in his marriage.

State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks prosecuted the case and said she took the case based on the violent nature of the baby being killed, mentioning that she has a seven-year-old daughter.

“Every case is significant, but there's something unspeakable about killing a child,” Alsobrooks said. “This was personal to all of us and we gave it all we had.”