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Akron Man Convicted of Raping and Killing Toddler Asks for Clemency

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 5:30 PM

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The state parole board will soon release its recommendation on whether an Akron man who raped and killed his girlfriend’s toddler daughter should die for that crime. Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler was at the clemency hearing for the arguments.

40 year old Ronald Phillips of Akron was convicted of raping and killing 3 year old Sheila Marie Evans in 1993, concluding what Summit County prosecutors described as a three day period of beatings and sexual assaults. Phillips’ plea for clemency to board members started with videotaped testimony from his mother and from his half sister Mary Phillips. “And I’m just asking you to spare my brother’s life because I love him. What he did was wrong, but I’m just asking you to spare his life because Ron has changed a whole lot. He’s into church. We wasn’t allowed to go to church. We wasn’t allowed to do anything. We was confined to that house like we was prisoners.”

Phillips described in graphic detail the violent abuse she says she and her siblings suffered at the hands of Phillips’ father. Most of the defense’s case was about the environment Ronald Phillips grew up in – and about how no court ever heard about the sexual abuse, the beatings, the filth and the crime that Phillips experienced as a child. Phillips’ attorney Tim Sweeney said the defense team later told a judge that they didn’t bring up that evidence because they didn’t do enough research.

“We did not know about the dirty, horrific, appalling, drug-infested life that these kids grew up in and that this 19 year old kid was a product of. They didn’t know about it. That’s inexcusable. That’s a breakdown in what the constitution requires for a capital trial.”

Sweeney said the team was holding back the evidence as a strategy to get a lesser sentence, since they apparently felt a conviction was inevitable because Phillips had written a partial confession. But Summit County assistant prosecutor Brad Gessner said there was no evidence of abuse to bring up in children’s services reports on the Phillips home, and he suggested the taped testimonies were a tactic too, because those witnesses couldn’t be asked follow up questions about their stories. And he said while the defense talked a lot about Phillips’ alleged abusive upbringing, they didn’t mention the victim or the gruesome series of attacks that eventually killed her.

“Another word we didn’t hear, or a phrase we didn’t hear, from the defense is ‘that is the worst form of the offense.’ A three year old child fighting for their life from a man who has continuously beat her over a three day period.”

And a few members of that child’s family spoke before the parole board as well. Sheila Evans’ aunt Donna Hudson read from a letter she co-wrote with a family friend, about the
“The image of her tiny body in a casket is forever etched in our minds. Sheila’s innocence was stolen and her life was taken for no reason. Justice should be served in her name.”

Sheila Evans’ mother Fae Evans died of cancer in 2008 – she’d been serving time in the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville for involuntary manslaughter and child endangering for her role in her daughter’s death. Phillips is scheduled for execution on November 13. 

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