A former friend of murder suspect Pamela Phillips testified Thursday that Phillips told her she wanted to have her ex-husband, Gary Triano, killed.
“She said that she should just hire a hit man to have him taken out,” Laura Chapman said.
Phillips is on trial in Pima County Superior Court for first-degree murder and for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Triano was killed when his car exploded after he played golf at La Paloma resort in 1996.
Chapman, a former friend of Phillips’ and Triano’s, said she was friends with the couple in the years leading to Triano’s death and continued the friendship with Phillips after the divorce.
Around 1993, three years before Triano was killed, Chapman testified that Phillips told her and another woman that Triano threatened her with a gun in a dispute. During that meeting at Phillips’ home, Chapman said Phillips said she could easily have Triano killed.
“She said it would be easy to do because he was so predicable and played golf every day,” Chapman said.
She also said Phillips spoke of Triano’s $2 million life insurance policy. Prosecutors say Phillips had Triano killed to collect the insurance benefit.
Chapman told the jury that Phillips was angry because Triano had allegedly exaggerated his worth when they first married and had fallen into financial difficulty as their marriage wore on.
Despite the threats and complaints, Chapman said she didn’t think much of the conversation.
“I just thought it was her being emotional,” Chapman said.
The night of the murder, however, Chapman confided to the man who was then her husband what she had heard.
“That night I remember saying to him, ‘Oh my gosh; she really did it,’ ” Chapman said.
She also reached out to the other woman who had been at Phillips’ home the night she spoke of killing Triano. Between the two of them, however, they again decided to remain silent.
“I feared for my own safety,” Chapman told the jury. “I thought if I came forward, there might be some threat to me or my children.”
It wasn’t until 2011 after a chance meeting with one of Triano’s daughters that Chapman decided to speak with police.
In the years between Triano’s murder and when she spoke with police, Chapman was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. She underwent radiation, chemotherapy and eventually surgery to remove the tumor.
Defense attorney Alicia Cata questioned whether the surgery affected Chapman’s memory.
Chapman said she had not experienced any memory loss.
Cata also questioned whether Chapman recalled telling police she had seen a 2005 episode of “America’s Most Wanted” that featured Ronald Young, who has since been convicted of Triano’s murder and who prosecutors say conspired with Phillips.
During pretrial stages of the case, Phillips’ defense team argued that Chapman’s surgery had resulted in memory loss and possible confusion between media accounts and her own recollections.
The trial continues today in Judge Richard Fields’ courtroom.