Murder charged in shooting
Sheriff David Greene said Sandra “Sandy” Phillips died during a home invasion in the 7300 block of FM 486 when she was hit twice in the chest with blasts from a .12-gauge shotgun.
A rrested w ithin hours were 18- year-old Tanner Aaron Baker of 3167 Burleson County Road 232, and Brandon Charles Cotton, 19, of 1507 Alcoa Street, Rockdale. Both are RHS dropouts.
Greene said the incident appears to have occurred during a “ home invasion.”
“ That’s what makes this a capital murder charge, because it occurred during the commission of a felony offense,” Greene said.
DISCOVERY— Greene said Mrs. Phillips’ body was discovered about 5 p.m. by her husband, Michael Phillips, who came home after working at Manor Oaks Nursing Home, where he is in charge of medical records.
Greene said the house had been bur- glarized and Mrs. Phillips’s purse was emptied, her wallet taken and her white Ford Mustang was driven away.
Within minutes, Rockdale Police Ofc. Adam Assaker stopped a vehicle matching that description at the Rockdale Cefco and arrested Baker.
Greene said a female in the car with Baker was not charged with anything . “He had picked her up later,” Greene said. “He told her the car was a gift from a family member.”
Cotton was then identified as the other suspect. He was taken into custody, on foot, by Chief Deputy Chris White at Sunny’s Convenience Store in Rockdale.
Both suspects were brought to the Milam County Jail where they were magistrated and charged with capital murder, a death penalty offense in Texas.
Bond was denied.
WEAPONS, THEFTS— Greene said the two were also suspects in two other vehicle thefts, a pickup stolen from Rockdale and a Lincoln sedan taken from a location south of Thorndale.
It is believed the suspects were driving the Lincoln on Monday.
Probable cause affidavits filed with Justice of the Peace Rick Gommert’s court allege one of the suspects saw the white Mustang as they drove around the San Gabriel area looking for homes to burglarize.
Greene said it is believed one carried the shotgun and one the handgun as they approached the Phillips’ home and knocked on the door.
“It appears that she answered the door when someone knocked and that she was shot pretty quickly af ter that, then shot again,” the sheriff said.
It is alleged one then drove the Mustang to Rockdale and the other took the Lincoln in the opposite direction.
Greene said a shotgun was found in the Mustang’s trunk. “It’s undergoing ballistic tests,” he said.
Two rifles were also recovered during the investigation.
The Lincoln was found parked at the home of a relative of one of the suspects, Greene said.
He said the two suspects, confessed to killing Phillips and burglarizing the home.
Greene said the teens apparently did not know Phillips.
Greene said the DPS Mobile Crime Lab was brought to the murder scene and Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann also assisted.
NURSE—Mrs. Phillips was a nurse and had previously been employed at both Rockdale nursing homes, Manor Oaks and Renaissance Villa.
At the time of her death, Mrs. Phillips was employed in Austin with the State of Texas.
The couple moved to the San Gabriel area in 2005. Michael Phillips had formerly been employed in law enforcement in the northeastern United States.
Funeral arrangements had not been made as of presstime Wednesday. Mrs. Phillips body was sent for an autopsy, according to Greene.
CAPITAL MURDER—Capital murder cases are rare in Milam County. A 2005 double murder near Minerva originally resulted in a capital murder indictment but the state prosecuted for firstdegree murder, and did not seek the death penalty, after conferring with the victims’ family. A life sentence was returned.