Phillips gets life for 1996 bombing that killed her former husband

2014-05-23T00:00:00Z 2014-05-23T07:44:15Z Phillips gets life for 1996 bombing that killed her former husbandBy Patrick McNamara Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Nearly four years after her arrest in the murder of her ex-husband, Pamela Phillips was sentenced Thursday to spend the rest of her life in prison.

Phillips was convicted in April of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and first-degree murder for the 1996 car-bombing death of her ex-husband Gary Triano.

“I’m innocent! I’m innocent!” said Phillips, turning to the courtroom gallery after hearing her sentence from Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Fields. “This is a nightmare.”

Phillips, who did not testify in her seven-week trial, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on the first-degree murder conviction and 25 years to life in prison for the conspiracy conviction.

Triano was killed in the parking lot of La Paloma Country Club when a pipe bomb exploded in his car.

Triano’s children from a previous marriage were allowed to address the court during the hearing, both expressing the feelings of loss and betrayal they have felt since their father was killed.

“To think I actually stood up for this woman,” Heather Triano said.

She described the close relationship she continued to have with her former stepmother in the years after her father’s murder and before Phillips’ arrest.

Phillips, Heather Triano said, had been a guest at her wedding and present when her first child was born.

Even after the 2005 “America’s Most Wanted” episode that implicated Phillips and Ronald Young in the murder, Heather Triano said she defended Phillips.

“I vividly remember going to Pam’s house to give her a pep talk,” Heather Triano said, describing Phillips’ despondency after the television show implicated her.

Young was convicted of Gary Triano’s murder in 2010. He’s serving a life sentence.

Gary Triano’s son, Brian Triano, said greed was Phillips’ motivation for killing his father.

“Pamela Phillips murdered my father for nothing but the supposed comfort money would give her,” Brian Triano said. “His life was taken as a result of lack of humanity, greed and malice,” he said.

He also described how the family lived in fear in the years after Gary Triano’s death, not knowing if the killer would seek them out as well.

Both the siblings described their father as a generous person who enjoyed helping others and spending time with his friends and family.

Phillips’ attorney, Paul Eckerstrom, remained steadfast in his belief in his client’s innocence.

“This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, to watch my client be sentenced when I know she’s innocent,” Eckerstrom said.

He asked that Fields hand down the lowest sentence available, which would have been 25 years to life.

Eckerstrom also requested that Phillips be allowed to remain in the Pima County jail for 60 days so he could more easily communicate with her while he prepares a motion to vacate the judgment.

Fields denied both requests.

Eckerstrom also said he intended to present new evidence that has come to his attention since the verdict in April.

Immediately after the trial, defense investigators began to seek out jurors from the trial to search for evidence of misconduct.

Fields ordered that neither the defense nor prosecution contact the jurors, an order that Eckerstrom also has plans to fight.

Deputy Pima County Attorney Rick Unklesbay said the jury’s verdict left no doubt about Phillips’ guilt.

“There have been two separate juries, independently with different attorneys on both sides, that came to the same conclusion in this case,” Unklesbay said, referring to Young’s conviction.

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at 573-4241 or pmcnamara@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @pm929.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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