Phillips brothers bond reduced to $100,000; trial changed to December

Two brothers accused of holding a man at gunpoint and forcing him to dig his own grave had their bond reduced from $1 million to $100,000 Thursday.

 

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

Defense Attorney John Wesley Hall said he felt the reduced amount was still too high because it would cost $10,000 to post bond.

Circuit Judge Charles “Ed” Clawson said based on the charges the Phillips brothers face, he couldn’t justify lowering it anymore.

“That’s the best I can do,” he said.

With that number still high, Hall requested that the trial date, which was set for February, be moved up.

“That February date was my mistake,” Clawson said, noting that he didn’t realize that was the same time frame as the Exxon Mobil trial.

Due to the conflict, the trial was moved to Dec. 11 and 12.

The other issue discussed during the hearing was a key witness in the prosecution’s case that remains unfound.

Prosecutors asked for more time Sept. 27 to locate the witness, Jonathan “Jon Jon” Lewis, which delayed the trial for the second time.

Hall asked Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Colin Wall if the court had located Lewis and Wall said it had not but had an idea where he could be located.

Clawson also asked Wall about the status of the witness and Wall responded, “working on it, your honor.”

“What if they never find the witness and they stay in jail [all this time],” Hall said.

Charges could be dropped against the Phillips brothers if Lewis isn’t found. Wall previously told the Log Cabin Democrat that Lewis’s testimony holds the case together.

Hall said he had a recording that Lewis sent to Michelle Phillips, Tommy’s wife, through Facebook Messenger — Hall copied it to his phone Sept. 4 — that stated the witness had not been kidnapped by the Phillips brothers and had not been forced to dig his own grave.

“You can listen to his tone of voice and [he said] he was not kidnapped,” he said.

Hall said that statement contradicts what Lewis originally told the police in his initial statement where he was told to get in the car while one of the suspects displayed a revolver and told the victim if he tried to run he would be shot, according to the report.

Wall said he’d prefer to have Lewis be there for cross examination.

Hall allowed the LCD to listen to the 50-second recording after the hearing Thursday and asked the attorney why he thinks prosecutors could not locate Lewis.

“Because he doesn’t want to be found,” Hall said.

The charges filed against the two brothers come from a Jan. 21 incident when the Faulkner County Sheriffs’s Office was called out to a possible kidnapping on Brannon Landing in south Faulkner County, near Mayflower.

A woman called and said two or three men forced her boyfriend to get into a dark gray Nissan at gunpoint and headed toward Highway 365, according to an incident report.

Deputies learned that the Phillips brothers were suspected on having the kidnapped victim at Allen Drive.

Tommy fled into the woods before FCSO made it to the location but the alleged victim, Michael Phillips and another man were on scene when they arrived.

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

Michael was arrested on the scene and Tommy turned himself in a few days later.

 

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