Family members of Corey Brandon Phillips sat quietly in the courtroom Monday with tears streaming down their faces.
But Phillips, standing with his attorneys, was calm and showed no emotion, nor did he offer any statement, before Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge J. Craig Cox ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prison without the chance of parole.
A jury on June 21 convicted Phillips, 28, of first-degree murder in the Oct. 2, 2014, stabbing death of 23-year-old Jamiah Ward of New Castle. The murder took place on a steep wooded hillside called “The Cut,” located between the back of New Castle High School and the New Castle police station.
Phillips and Ward, who were reported to have been friends, were out looting cars early the morning of Ward’s death. They got into a fight and Phillips stabbed Ward multiple times, according to testimony at Phillips’ trial. Testimony showed Ward had suffered multiple stab wounds to his back, abdomen and skull and that he had suffered a broken rib.
Witnesses testified that Phillips, after killing Ward, had tried to hide his body and he covered it with branches and leaves, then he attempted later to make people think Ward was still alive.
He has been in the Lawrence County jail without bond since New Castle police arrested him on Oct. 9, 2014.
He will be assigned to his prison term at a state correctional institution elsewhere in Pennsylvania.
The case was prosecuted by deputy state attorney general Patrick Schulte, with assistance from deputy attorney general Bobbi Jo Wagner.
Wagner told the judge in court yesterday that Ward’s mother, Regina Washington, was unable to attend the sentencing, but sent a message to remind Phillips that “there’s a special place for him in the afterward.”
Lawrence County Public Defender Larry Keith and assistant public defender Dennis Elisco represented Phillips in the courtroom yesterday but offered no comment.
“I don’t think there’s any statement that matters at this point in time,” Keith said, encouraging the judge to proceed with the sentencing.
Cox advised Phillips of his rights to appeal and that he can file a motion for judgment of acquittal within 10 days of his sentencing.
“It certainly was an interesting case,” Schulte said after the sentencing. He deferred to the state Attorney General Joshua Shapiro, who commented in a prepared news release, “Justice was served today as this defendant was held accountable for ending Jamiah Ward’s life, and he will spend the rest of his life in prison.”