Friday, January 27, 2017

Yet another crime blast from the past...

This morning, as I'm sitting here waiting for my sheets to dry, I had a sudden memory of a violent crime that occurred in early December 2004.  At that time, Bill and I were living on Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia.  It seemed like a very safe community-- the ultimate gated community, actually.

I remember there was a 7 Eleven store located just off post.  We passed it whenever we took the George Washington Parkway anywhere.  I don't think we ever stopped in that particular convenience store.  Actually, a lot of the businesses near Fort Belvoir were kind of shady.

Back in early December 2004, there was a Korean clerk working there named Sun Ku Kwan.  Mr. Kwan was a popular sight at the store; he'd worked there for 28 years and was saving up for his retirement, which he planned to take within the year.  The owner of the store said that he could always count on Kwan to work any shift he needed covered and that he preferred the night shifts.

Early in the morning on December 6, 2004, a camouflage clad fourteen year old boy-- someone who also lived at Fort Belvoir and was the stepson of a military police officer-- had come into the store and loitered for awhile.  He'd come armed with a backpack full of knives and fake grenades he had stolen from the Fort Belvoir commissary.  Finally, at about 5am, the boy demanded money from Kwan as he restocked the sandwich shelves.

The boy told Kwan that he had a hand grenade as he demanded money.  He then stabbed Kwan in the back, which left a five inch wound in the upper back that punctured the clerk's thorax.  Despite the wound, the clerk and a co-worker ran out of the store because they thought there would be an explosion.  The assailant then took off on foot.

Kwan was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, but he died shortly after arrival.  The boy, later identified as Rody J. Phillips, was spotted a couple of miles away from the 7 Eleven.  He was stopped, questioned, and later arrested for the killing.  Phillips evidently spent his time prior to the case locked up in an adult facility, although he was kept away from adult inmates.

In September 2006, Phillips pleaded guilty to first degree murder.  He was sentenced as an adult for the crime and Judge Marcus D. Williams imposed a fifteen year sentence for murder and a ten year sentence for attempted robbery, but Judge Williams suspended all of those years.  Instead, Phillips spent five years in a juvenile detention facility and was released at age 21.

Phillips apologized to Kwon's family before he was taken away, knowing that if he didn't make his time locked up work, the judge could impose all or some of the original sentence in an adult facility.  It was said that Phillips had been taking Effexor, an antidepressant, before he committed the murder, and voices in his head had told him to kill.  He'd been depressed in the weeks before the crime, having moved to Fort Belvoir from Texas, where he'd lived with his father and stepmother.

I remember very well when this crime happened.  Fort Belvoir, like many military communities, is somewhat tight knit.  I also remember staring at that 7 Eleven every time we passed it, thinking about the poor clerk who simply wanted to retire and enjoy the fruits of his hard work.  Sadly, he never got the opportunity.

I looked up Rody J. Phillips and, if I found the right guy, it looks like his life is on track again.  He's now a father.  I'm pretty sure that I found the right man because I noticed that he was a member of a public Facebook group that appeared to be for people who had done time in prison together.  I guess it makes sense that if you spend several formative years in a detention facility, your friends would be fellow criminals.  I also notice that he's a member of a group for motivation and inspiration.

It's a good thing that Phillips had the chance to straighten out.  Apparently, he had only turned fourteen two weeks before he committed the crime, which had some bearing as to why he didn't get a longer sentence.  Generally speaking, I'm in favor of letting people recover from their mistakes.  I'm hoping that Phillips really has fully rehabilitated and doesn't get in trouble with the law again.

For more on this case, click here, but be aware that the link is to a blog about crimes committed after people used SSRI antidepressants.


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