D.C. cop found guilty of two murders

January 17, 2013

A D.C. police officer was convicted Thursday of killing his mistress outside a Hillcrest Heights community center, then driving their daughter to a nearby apartment complex and leaving her in a hot SUV to die.

Jurors in Prince George’s County Circuit Court deliberated for less than two hours before convicting Richmond Phillips, 40, of two counts of first-degree murder and related charges.

Prosecutors had accused the married, undercover vice officer of fatally shooting 20-year-old Wynetta Wright in May 2011 because he did not want to acknowledge his child or pay her child support.

The slaying occurred hours before Phillips was to submit a DNA sample that would ultimately prove he was the father of Wright’s 11-month-old daughter, Jaylin Wright.

After killing Wynetta Wright, prosecutors said, Phillips drove the woman’s SUV to a nearby apartment complex, leaving Jaylin in the vehicle to die in the heat.


This June 3, 2011, file photo, provided by the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland shows Richmond Phillips, a former District of Columbia police officer charged in the 2011 deaths of his mistress and their infant child. (Uncredited/AP)

As jurors read each successive verdict, some of Wynetta Wright’s relatives sniffled and wiped away tears. Wyvette Wright, her mother, clenched the bench in front of her and nodded, her lips pressed tightly together.

“I am just so happy that he was found guilty on every count because he is a liar and a killer,” she said in an interview outside the courthouse. She said she wished he could get the death penalty.

“He is a perfect candidate,” she said.

Prosecutors’ case against Phillips — the first tried by Angela Alsobrooks since she was elected state’s attorney in 2010 — was largely circumstantial, but strong. They showed jurors surveillance footage of Phillips meeting with Wynetta Wright at the community center before her death and video of an hour-long interview in which he repeatedly changed his account of that encounter.

They also had DNA evidence — albeit from a sample that was contested by defense attorneys — demonstrating that Phillips might have driven Wynetta Wright’s car.

Defense attorneys had acknowledged that Phillips lied several times to investigators probing Wynetta Wright’s disappearance and death but said he did so to cover up an affair, not a murder.

They said that although Phillips met with Wynetta Wright at the center before she was killed, no surveillance cameras caught the actual killing, which they claimed happened after Phillips left.

The trial was an emotional and sometimes lurid affair. Family members of the victims filled half the courtroom all week, occasionally stepping outside to cry. Phillips’s wife testified for prosecutors, contradicting portions of what her husband told investigators, as did a second mistress of Phillips.

Brian Denton, Phillips’s attorney, said after the verdicts were read that he plans to appeal.

Phillips faces life in prison without parole. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 22 and will remain jailed until then.

Alsobrooks said prosecutors would seek the most severe sentence possible.

“Every case is significant to us, but there is something unspeakable about killing a child,” she said. “This was a case I think that was personal to all of 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.
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