There are several reasons Clayton Phillips, the 18-year-old accused of stabbing his Russell Township grandmother 41 times, needs to stay in jail, said Geauga County…
There are several reasons Clayton Phillips, the 18-year-old accused of stabbing his Russell Township grandmother 41 times, needs to stay in jail, said Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz Tuesday.
First, two deadly weapons were used to kill 81-year-old Ruth Phillips sometime between Jan. 20 and Jan 21, Flaiz told Geauga County Common Pleas Judge?Forrest Burt during Clayton’s 2 p.m. video arraignment.
Second, Ruth, who lived at 8419 Cloverridge Road, was stabbed 41 times, the prosecutor said.
Third, there was strong physical evidence linking Clayton to the murder, he said, adding within two hours of being released from the Geauga County Safety Center on Jan. 20, Clayton had his grandmother drive him to a store in Chardon.
“He is seen on video tape purchasing the murder weapon,” Flaiz told Burt. “The defendant’s only connection to Ohio was his grandmother, who he murdered.”
Clayton — who was recently indicted by a Geauga County grand jury on nine felony counts, including aggravated murder — had no other ties to Ohio, where he moved in August of 2013 from Texas, Flaiz said.
The prosecutor also told Burt Clayton had an escape conviction as a juvenile in Texas and was on probation at the time he is accused of murdering his grandmother.
For these reasons, Flaiz requested Clayton’s bond be set at $5 million.
The Geauga County Public Defender Bob Umholtz — who entered written pleas on behalf of Clayton of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, the latter motion he withdrew Friday — requested a “more reasonable” bond be set and asked the court to order a competency evaluation.
Burt asked Clayton if he were released from jail, would he have any place to go.
“No,” Clayton said.
“I?appreciate your candor,”?Burt replied, before agreeing to the state’s request, setting bond at $5 million.
Burt referred Clayton to the court’s competency evaluator.
The two weapons used in the crime were a knife and a hatchet. The hatchet was purchased at Walmart in Chardon, according to a source familar with the investigation.
In addition the aggravated murder charge, Clayton also faces two counts of murder, two counts of felonious assault, one count of tampering with evidence, one count of possessing criminal tools, one count of misuse of credit cards and one count of gross abuse of a corpse in the murder of Ruth Phillips, 81, who was found stabbed to death in the basement of her home on Jan. 21.
The murder counts are both unclassified felonies; the felonious assault counts are second-degree felonies; the tampering with evidence count is a third-degree felony; the possessing criminal tools, misuse of credit cards and gross abuse of a corpse counts are fifth-degree felonies.
The aggravated murder count carries a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Geauga County Coroner Robert Coleman has ruled the death a homicide, Flaiz said in a statement Thursday.
Phillips had been taken into police custody at a home on Lake Shore Drive in Little Punderson in Newbury Township around 1:45 a.m. Jan. 22.
He was arraigned later that morning via video in Chardon Municipal Court on a probation violation for failing to follow all of the recommendations set forth in a jail treatment program on a prior conviction.
Chardon Municipal Court Judge Terri Stupica found that Phillips had violated his probation and ordered him held in the Geauga County Safety Center without bond.
Phillips had been sent to Russell Township from Texas last year to live with Ruth. He was arrested in September for illegal use/possession of marijuana, unauthorized use of a vehicle and theft, according to court records.
Although the amount of the theft warranted a felony charge, Clayton was convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor theft as well as unauthorized use of a vehicle, according to court records.
He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, with 120 of the days suspended, on each count with the time to run consecutively. He was ordered to attend counseling and to pay restitution to his grandmother in the amount of $584 by March 31, 2014.
Clayton also was placed on one-year probation, which was scheduled to end Nov. 6, 2014. He served his jail time starting Sept. 23 and was released Jan. 20.
As previously reported, a friend of Ruth’s had been trying to reach her since the night of Jan. 20 and became concerned for her welfare.
The female friend called the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office at 6:48 p.m. to request a welfare check on Ruth. She said she had spoken to Clayton on the phone several times and he was giving conflicting reasons why his grandmother could not come to the phone, according to the call log.
Two Russell Township police officers responded, entered the residence and found Ruth dead, Russell Township Police Chief Tim Carroll said. Neither Ruth nor Clayton’s vehicles were at the residence, so police began a search that eventually led to Clayton’s apprehension. It is believed he fled in Ruth’s vehicle, which a neighbor said was a Buick.
Another neighbor described Ruth Phillips as a very nice lady and said Clayton cut her grass occasionally in the summer. But he also did not believe Clayton lived at her home all of the time.
EDITOR’S NOTE: It initially was reported Clayton Phillips purchased one of the murder weapons at the Chardon Home Depot. He purchased it at the Chardon Walmart, according to a source familiar with the case.
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