The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Cellphones help solve case of D.C. woman killed in Stafford
A Maryland man was sentenced to 39 years in prison Friday after admitting that he killed a Washington woman last year in Stafford County.
Joseph Foster Jones, 32, of Capitol Heights, Md., pleaded guilty in Stafford Circuit Court to second-degree murder and abduction.
According to the evidence, he strangled 22-year-old Shavon Phillips to death on July 30, 2012, apparently as part of a plan to take money from her.
Phillips’ body was found wrapped in a duffel bag in a creek in Fort Washington, Md., on Aug. 2, 2012.
Jones was arrested about a month later by Maryland authorities, and the case was later turned over to the federal government.
As part of the ensuing legal maneuverings, the case recently ended up in the hands of Stafford Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen.
Until Friday, Jones had never been formally charged in Stafford. His entire Stafford case was wrapped up in a single court hearing.
As part of a plea agreement between Olsen and defense attorney Mark McCarthy, Judge Charles Sharp sentenced Jones to a total of 49 years with 10 years suspended.
Olsen said on Friday that Phillips was looking to buy a car when she met Jones through a mutual acquaintance.
Jones told her he could get her a good deal at an auto auction in Stafford, so Phillips withdrew about $4,000 from her bank accounts and agreed to ride to Stafford with Jones.
After dropping Phillips’ two-year-old daughter off at a day care center, the two headed south. Phillips was never seen alive again.
Phillips’ family members testified Friday that they immediately became concerned when they learned the Phillips had not picked up her daughter.
Their fears were confirmed a couple of days later when her body was found.
Olsen said police were able to track the cellphones of both Jones and Phillips to Stafford.
They also found her blood in the trunk of Jones’ car and obtained surveillance footage showing him purchasing contractor bags from a Home Depot in Northern Virginia that matched the bag that Phillips’ body was in.
Olsen said Jones told police that after purchasing a car, Phillips left and he never saw her again.
But the investigation showed that Phillips never bought a car, and the auto auction Jones claimed she bought it from wasn’t even open the day they came to Stafford.
Phillips’ relatives, including her mother, father and sister, were in the Stafford courtroom Friday and said her death is still haunting the family.
“Her daughter cries for her every night,” said Christine Brown, Phillips’ mother. “I don’t know how to explain to a 3-year-old that her mother isn’t coming back.”
One family member said 39 years wasn’t enough, and Sharp agreed.
“The depravity of this crime is obvious to everyone in the courtroom,” the judge said.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404