Defense lawyer says Woodbury man killed wife but didn’t plan to

Shevon Phillips loved cooking and listening to music. She was a mother, daughter and sister.

McKinley Phillips (Courtesy of the Monroe, Wis., County Jail)
McKinley Phillips (Courtesy of the Monroe, Wis., County Jail)

“She did not deserve to die in the manner that (her husband) chose for her that day,” Assistant Washington County Attorney Tom Frenette told jurors Monday during opening statements in the murder trial of McKinley Phillips. “You are here today because that man … killed his wife by stabbing her 27 times in the basement of their home.”

Phillips, 40, faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2021 death of his 42-year-old wife.

His attorney says Phillips killed the woman but that he didn’t plan to, so a lesser charge of second-degree murder is more appropriate.

Phillips is accused of stabbing his wife in the basement of their Woodbury home near Royal Oaks Elementary School. Six children ages 5 to 15 were upstairs watching TV at the time, Frenette said.

After the stabbing, Phillips rode a Metro Transit bus and train to Minneapolis and then got on a Greyhound bus headed for Chicago. Police found Phillips on the bus around 3 a.m. the next day near Tomah, Wis. by tracking the location of his phone, Frenette said.

Internet searches that Phillips made on his cell phone “are a mirror image of his thoughts” before and after the killing, Frenette told the jury. Among the searches: How much does it cost to file for divorce? What is considered “murder” under Minnesota law?

On the morning she was killed, Shevon Phillips picked up her husband from his overnight job at Mystic Lake Casino and drove them home, Frenette said. Back at the house, McKinley Phillips found a letter to his wife from an old boyfriend, who was currently in jail, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.

Phillips searched the man’s name online, then found Shevon Phillips sitting in a chair in a basement TV room and punched her multiple times in the face, “hitting her so hard it put her in a daze,” Frenette told the jury.

Taking out a blue, folding pocketknife, Phillips “chose to flip it open and pick up the knife and bring it down on his wife’s body repeatedly,” continuing to stab her after she fell face down on the floor, Frenette said.

“He chooses to savagely attack her,” Frenette said. “He positions himself over her and stabs her multiple times.”

After the knife either slipped or partially folded into his pinky finger, Phillips got a second folding knife – a green one – “and he walks up to his wife again and decides to repeatedly stab her again,” Frenette said. “These are his choices. This all occurs while six children – ranging in age from 5 to 15 – are upstairs watching TV.”

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