“There is something especially evil — there is something especially unspeakable about the murder of a child,” said Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks. “How unnatural — how unnatural and how rare it is.”
Phillips, a married, undercover vice officer, “betrayed the trust of the community that he served and disgraced the proud profession that he represented,” said Circuit Court Judge Sheila R. Tillerson Adams.
The sentence stemmed from Phillips’
for the May 2011 murders, which Alsobrooks said provoked more expressions of outrage from residents than any case in her memory.
Even Friday, emotions ran so raw that a half-dozen armor-jacketed police officers reinforced bailiffs to provide security at the Upper Marlboro courtroom.
Prosecutors said that Phillips, who had been scheduled to provide a DNA sample to determine whether he was Jaylin’s father, met Wright at a park, shot her in the head and dumped her body in the woods because he did not want to acknowledge the child or pay child support. He then abandoned Jaylin, who was found three days later still belted in the car seat of Wright’s sport-utility vehicle. Police said its temperature had reached 125 degrees.
Alsobrooks, who tried the case herself, said that as the mother of a 7-year-old, “I think this was something that was emotional for all of us.”
In a statement read to the court by a relative, Wright’s mother, Wyvette Wright, 39, described the agony of losing a daughter and granddaughter, left “in the woods like trash.”
“I can’t get what happened to them out of my head,” she wrote. “I cry day and night.”
Wynetta Wright’s father, Everett Tucker, 41, told reporters outside the courthouse: “The baby can rest in peace now that justice has been served. That’s all I can say. I’m sorry.”
Phillips’s defense attorney, Brian Denton, said that because his client pleaded not guilty, he could offer no “explanation for what would otherwise be inexplicable.”
He said Phillips was raised without a father, and that his imprisonment would leave behind a wife and a young child.
“I recognize in the face of this crime that may pale,” Denton added.
The reading of Phillips’s sentence drew a whispered “Yes” and a thumbs-up from a woman seated behind the prosecution, where dozens of Wynetta Wright’s family members and supporters sat.
The foreman of the jury that convicted Phillips of two counts each of first- and second-degree murder, a weapons charge and child abuse also was in the courtroom.
“Yes, it hit me very deep,” said Eric Mason, 47, a father and a grandfather. “I felt compelled to see it through.”
Phillips sat silently as the sentence was read, then was asked if he understood his punishment and the time he had to appeal.
“Yes, ma’am, I do,” Phillips said.
Then, without turning around, his hands were re-cuffed behind his back and he was escorted from the courtroom.