US man found guilty of killing wife used his phone to Google divorce-related items beforehand

Phillips’ searches, according to Frenette, included: ‘How do you know if your wife is talking to another man?’ ‘Physical signs your wife is cheating?’ and ‘How do you know if you have a good woman?’ — Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

A Washington County jury on July 1 morning 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, ranging in age from five to 15, were in the house at the time.

Phillips took a Greyhound bus headed for Chicago after the fatal stabbing, police said. Officers found him on the bus around 3am 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 found guilty 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 cellphone to conduct a number of Internet searches related to divorce.

Among the questions he had for Google: “How much does it cost to get a divorce?” “What to do if your wife wants a divorce and you don’t?” “What if my wife wants me to sign divorce papers, but I don’t?” “Do both parties have to sign a divorce decree?” and “Hennepin County divorce filing fee?”

During closing statements in Phillips’ murder trial, prosecutors said his searches on June 24, 2021, the day before Sha-Von Phillips’ death, showed more signs of marital discord. They were married five years.

Phillips’ searches, according to Assistant Washington County Attorney Tom Frenette, included: “How do you know if your wife is talking to another man?” “Physical signs your wife is cheating?” and “How do you know if you have a good woman?”

“He knows a divorce is likely,” Frenette told the jury of eight women and four men. “This is not a shock. He said he thought she was having an affair. He believes she’s cheating. ... This was not a rash decision, ladies and gentleman. The evidence shows that there were breaking points in all of this.”

Defense attorney Mac Guptil countered that Phillips did not plan to kill his wife, so the lesser charge of second-degree murder would be more appropriate.

“None of those (internet) searches showed that there was a plan to kill someone,” Guptil said. “Were any of the searches: ‘How do you get away with murder?’ ‘How do you get rid of evidence?’ No.”

The couple’s marital discord and McKinley Phillips’ subsequent internet searches “sure as heck didn’t establish a plan,” Guptil told the jury. “At some point, it went overboard, but ... (the state) can’t prove that he was operating on a scheme to kill. I am not condoning a lot of things Mr. Phillips did, but based on the circumstantial evidence, the state overreached the charges.”

Phillips, wearing a gray suit, testified that he made additional internet searches after the killing, including “Definitions of “murder” and “I just killed my wife”.

When Guptil asked his client about the searches, 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

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