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Crime and Courts

Family says 40-year-old Ronald Phillips was abused as a child
Ronald Phillips, of Akron, was convicted of raping and killing 3-year-old Sheila Marie Evans in 1993

Karen Kasler
Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Gessner argues to the parole board against clemency.
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In The Region:
The Ohio Parole Bord will soon release its recommendation on whether an Akron man who raped and killed his girlfriend’s toddler daughter should die for that crime. Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler was at the clemency hearing for the arguments.
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Forty-year-old Ronald Phillips of Akron was convicted of raping and killing 3-year-old Sheila Marie Evans in 1993, concluding what Summit County prosecutors described as a three-day period of beatings and sexual assaults. Phillips’ plea for clemency to board members started with videotaped testimony from his mother and from his half-sister Mary Phillips. 

“And I’m just asking you to spare my brother’s life because I love him," Mary Phillips said. "What he did was wrong, but I’m just asking you to spare his life because Ron has changed a whole lot. He’s into church. We wasn’t allowed to go to church. We wasn’t allowed to do anything. We was confined to that house like we was prisoners.”

Abuse begetting abuse?
Phillips described in graphic detail the violent abuse she says she and her siblings suffered at the hands of Phillips’ father. Most of the defense’s case was about the environment Ronald Phillips grew up in – and about how no court ever heard about the sexual abuse, the beatings, the filth and the crime that Phillips experienced as a child. Phillips’ attorney Tim Sweeney said the defense team later told a judge that they didn’t bring up that evidence because they didn’t do enough research. 

“We did not know about the dirty, horrific, appalling, drug-infested life that these kids grew up in and that this 19-year-old kid was a product of," Sweeney said. "They didn’t know about it. That’s inexcusable. That’s a breakdown in what the Constitution requires for a capital trial.”

Sweeney said the team was holding back the evidence as a strategy to get a lesser sentence, since they apparently felt a conviction was inevitable because Phillips had written a partial confession.

More evidence
But Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Brad Gessner said there was no evidence of abuse to bring up in children’s services reports on the Phillips home, and he suggested the taped testimonies were a tactic, too, because those witnesses couldn’t be asked follow-up questions about their stories. And he said while the defense talked a lot about Phillips’ alleged abusive upbringing, they didn’t mention the victim or the gruesome series of attacks that eventually killed her. 

“Another word we didn’t hear, or a phrase we didn’t hear, from the defense is ‘that is the worst form of the offense,’" Gessner said. "A 3-year-old child fighting for their life from a man who has continuously beat her over a three-day period.”

Speaking for the child
And a few members of that child’s family spoke before the parole board as well. Sheila Evans’ aunt Donna Hudson read from a letter she co-wrote with a family friend.

“The image of her tiny body in a casket is forever etched in our minds. Sheila’s innocence was stolen and her life was taken for no reason. Justice should be served in her name.”

Sheila Evans’ mother Fae Evans died of cancer in 2008. She’d been serving time in the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville for involuntary manslaughter and child endangering for her role in her daughter’s death. Phillips is scheduled for execution on Nov.13.

Listener Comments:

heh heh it's not his fault, says the world. He was abused as a child. He has a right to do whatever he wants to. Poor helpless child rapist. Forget the fact that he will get a nicer death than we are entitled to... but hey. It wasn't HIS fault. Nope. No choice.

Posted by: Adeline (south dakota) on April 11, 2014 6:04AM
...Sigh...People, I understand your outrage, the thought of these crimes makes me cringe. But we cannot fight hate with hate. It's like trying to put out a fire with a grenade.
None of us is fit or entitled to take the life of another, no matter what the justification. Judgment will come for these people, from the energy of the universe. Don't let yourselves be swept into their tornado of despair.

Posted by: She-Ra (Iowa) on February 10, 2014 6:02AM
What he did was complete horror. Why did he do this? Could there be any truth in the claim that he was abused in childhood? Could this perhaps have led to the murder of the three year old Sheila? What other reason is there? Should we spare his life if he was abused in childhood?

A large percentage of abusers were abused in childhood.

Posted by: AJA (Rotterdam) on November 18, 2013 1:11AM
I'm relieved the POS mother was convicted and incarcerated for her obvious role in not only not protecting, but allowing that creep to abuse her daughter.

I was abused for years in my youth. I would NEVER harm a child. I would however have no remorse about killing a child abuser!!!

Posted by: Ann (CA) on November 13, 2013 5:11AM
This has been in my mind for years. So glad that his life will be over tomorrow. Rest in peace little Sheila.

Posted by: Anita (Canal Fulton) on November 12, 2013 11:11AM
Did he go to ellet? Anyone know? I might know this person, horrible what someone can do to a poor ,innocent ,defenseless baby, sickening!

Posted by: Maria (Stark) on October 29, 2013 5:10AM
Eye for an eye. A three year old innocent baby gets tortured for 3 days as well as molested then killed. Guy(not the innocent childs father)who is sorry now, and going to church, was tortured by real father and lived to grow up and tell everyone about it, gets a painless put to sleep death.

Posted by: Oilville Outlaw on October 28, 2013 8:10AM
He deserves to suffer over a three day period. I believe he should be placed among the other inmates,tell them of his crime ,and let them go at him for three days!! then he will know how that helpless little girl felt! Im sickened by anyone who could cause harm to a child like this. I am a mother of two, If someone were to hurt my children like this ,I would have no problem sitting in prison the rest of my life or taking a death sentence for doing to them what should be done. I can not stand people who harm children. It is absolutely disgusting . To claim abuse is even worse. that is such a bs excuse. So his lawyer is trying to say everyone who was abused ia going to do this!!!??? NO THEY DONT!! HE DID IT!HE CHOSE TO DO IT , HE NEEDS TO SUFFER FOR IT. THE CHILD WAS THREE YEARS OLD AND SUFFERED THREE DAYS AT THE HANDS OF HIM

Posted by: Aj (FL) on October 28, 2013 7:10AM
they must cutoff all parts of his body and burn them. execution should have been done 20 years ago

Posted by: betty (california) on October 28, 2013 7:10AM
This is a monster (non-human)who gruesomely raped, tortured and murdered a 3 old helpless baby! Interesting that only when it's execution date draws nearer, it starts claiming abuse. There is absolutely zero value in saving it's life. In fact, there is no redeeming value to keep it alive. The thing should have been executed long ago. In fact, it should have been shipped out to the middle of the Atlantic ocean and thrown over-board. Threat removed, justice served, case closed!

Posted by: qwkinuf on October 28, 2013 1:10AM
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