A Washington County jury on the morning of July 1 found a Woodbury man guilty of first-degree murder and second-degree murder in connection with the stabbing death of his wife last summer.
The jury, which began deliberating Thursday afternoon, found McKinley Phillips, 40, guilty of stabbing Sha-Von Phillips multiple times in the basement of their Woodbury home on June 25, 2021. Six children , aged five to 15, were in the home at the time.
Phillips took a Greyhound bus to Chicago after the fatal stabbing, police said. Officers found him on the bus around 3 a.m. the next day near Tomah, Wisconsin, where he was arrested and jailed.
Prosecutors argued during the trial that Phillips’ crime involved premeditation and that he should be convicted on both counts of murder.
About a week before he allegedly killed his wife by stabbing her 27 times with two different folding knives, Phillips used his cell phone to do a number of internet searches related to the divorce.
Among the questions he posed to Google: “How much does it cost to divorce?” “What if your wife wants a divorce and you don’t?” “What if my wife wants me to sign the divorce papers, but I don’t?” “Do both parties have to sign a divorce decree?” and “Hennepin County Divorce Filing Fees?”
During closing statements in Phillips’ murder trial, prosecutors said his research on June 24, 2021, the day before Sha-Von Phillips died, showed more signs of marital discord. They were married for five years.
Phillips’ research, according to Washington County Assistant District Attorney Tom Frenette, included, “How do you know if your wife is talking to another man? “Physical signs that your wife is cheating?” and “How do you know if you have a good wife?”
“He knows a divorce is likely,” Frenette told the jury of eight women and four men. “It’s not a shock. He said he thought she was having an affair. He believes she was cheating. … It was not a rash decision, ladies and gentlemen. The evidence shows that There were breaking points in all of this.
Defense attorney Mac Guptil countered that Phillips had no intention of killing his wife, so the lesser charge of second-degree murder would be more appropriate.
“None of this research (on the Internet) showed that there was a plan to kill someone,” Guptil said. “Was one of the searches, ‘How do you get away with murder?’ “How do you dispose of the evidence?” No.”
The couple’s marital discord and McKinley Phillips’ subsequent internet searches “certainly did not establish a plan,” Guptil told the jury. “At one point it went too far, but… (the state) can’t prove he was operating on a scheme to kill. I don’t condone a lot of the things that Mr. Phillips did, but based on the circumstantial evidence, the state moved past the charges.
Phillips, wearing a gray suit, testified that he did additional internet research after the murder, including “Definitions of ‘Murder’ and ‘I Just Killed My Wife.’
When Guptil asked his client about the research, Phillips said he was “curious.”
“I had just done this horrible thing, and I wanted to know what I was going to face,” he said.
Phillips now faces a mandatory life sentence.
The trial was heard in Stillwater by Washington County District Judge Juanita Freeman. – Pioneer Press/Tribune News Service