Capitol Heights man charged in death of woman found in creek

A 31-year-old man from Capitol Heights was arrested Friday and charged in the death of a woman whose body was found encased in two bags in a creek in the Fort Washington area last month, Prince George’s County police said.

Joseph F. Jones was charged with first- and second-degree murder in the death of Shavon Phillips, 22, a mother of two young children who was last seen July 30 after dropping one of her daughters off at a day-care facility.

In a sworn statement filed in court, police said that on the day Phillips disappeared, she had gotten into a van with Jones, who was to take her to a car auction. But they said she was killed and $3800 she was believed to be carrying was stolen. The cause of death was asphyxia, police said Friday.

Law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity have said that Jones and Phillips had met through a mutual friend. Police also said Friday that they were trying to determine the exact nature of their relationship. But sources with knowledge of the investigation said they were no closer than acquaintances.

In outlining their evidence, police said the victim’s DNA was found in a van linked to the suspect, who they said lived in the 6900 block of Mountain Lakes Place.

The woman’s disappearance — and the recovery of her body — had stunned friends and family members, who could think of no one who would want to harm the loving mother.

Phillips did not seem to be romantically linked to anyone or involved in any disputes, said William Brown, 37, her stepfather. She lived with her 2-year-old daughter, Dania, in a two-bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington (her 5-year-old daughter, Danijsha Phillips, lived in Virginia with her father), had recently completed a nurse’s training program and was painting her home purple — her favorite color and one she felt was more “girlie-girlie” for Dania, Brown said.

Phillips was also supposed to start work as a housekeeper at the Hyatt in Bethesda just days after she went missing.

“This is all out of the ordinary,” Brown said in an interview before police arrested Jones. “Shavon was a person that stayed to herself and her daughter.”

On Aug. 1, two days after Jones was last seen leaving the day care in the 400 block of 61st St. NE, police pulled a woman’s body from a creek in Fort Washington. It was officially identified as Phillips’s about five days later. Police began investigating the case as a homicide a few weeks later.

Phillips’s body was encased in a plastic trash bag that was inside a cloth bag when officers pulled it from the creek, police said.

Surveillance video at a Home Depot showed Jones buying heavy duty trash bags similar to those found in the van, police said. They added that those were “consistent with the bag” in which the victim was found.

Police said that relatives of Jones had once owned a cloth bag similar to the one Phillips was found in and that Jones would have had access to it.

Brown said he hopes that Phillips will be remembered as a “great parent” to Danijsha and Dania. He said that although she enjoyed going out dancing and dreamed of one day becoming a model, her life was devoted to her children, who now will have to grow up without a mother.

“I just know we lost somebody we really love,” Brown said. “Some sick person took an angel from us.”

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.
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