Trial delayed as prosecutors attempt to locate key witness

Prosecutors asked for more time to locate a key witness in a case against two brothers accused of holding a man at gunpoint while forcing him to dig his own grave.

 

Michael J. Phillips, 26, and Tommy Phillips, 30, of Vilonia are currently being held in the county jail on suspicion of kidnapping, attempted capital murder and first-degree terroristic threatening. They have each pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A two-day jury trial in the matter that was scheduled to end Thursday has been moved to February. This is the second time the trial has been delayed.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Colin Wall said prosecutors have asked for an extension as they work on tracking down a key witness in the case.

“We are missing him and are trying to find him,” Wall said Wednesday. “[Finding him] is necessary to go forward with trial.”

Wall said prosecutors face dropping charges against the Phillips brothers if they cannot locate this key witness.

“If we cannot locate him for trial, we can’t have a trial,” he said, noting prosecutors are often faced with hunting down witnesses who move out of town or change phone numbers. In some cases, witnesses die before the case makes it to trial.

Wall said prosecutors are ready to proceed with trial, but that this witness’s testimony holds the case together. Prosecutors previously sat down with this witness while preparing for trial but have since lost touch with him.

The charges filed against the Phillips brothers stem from a Jan. 21 incident where the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office was called out to a possible kidnapping on Brannon Landing in south Faulkner County, near Mayflower.

The woman who called said two or three men forced her boyfriend at gunpoint to get into a dark gray Nissan with the license plate number 688 VCA. The vehicle headed toward Highway 365, according to an incident report.

“Deputies learned that a Michael Phillips and Tommy Phillips were suspected on having the kidnapping victim, as well as another man digging their own graves at gunpoint” on Allen Drive, also southeast of Mayflower, FCSO spokesman Adam Bledsoe said.

Tommy fled in the woods before FCSO made it to Allen Drive.

Deputies found a shovel, green chainsaw, black ax and “freshly disturbed dirt” near “the beginnings of a hole in the ground” while searching the area, according to the report.

Michael was arrested on the scene and is currently being held on a $1 million bond.

Tommy turned himself in a few days later and is currently being held in lieu of a $2 million bond.

The brothers’ trial is reset for Feb. 21 and 22 in Faulkner County Circuit Court.

 

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