YORK, S.C. — A judge has ruled that prosecutors can move forward in the murder case against Julia Phillips, accused of the February strangling death of former York Mayor Melvin Roberts, the York County Clerk of Court said Friday.
Phillips, 66, was charged in May with killing longtime York lawyer Roberts, her boyfriend, after she originally claimed she was the victim of an attempted robbery when Roberts was killed outside his York home.
The probable cause ruling was signed Friday by Circuit Court Judge Derham Cole of Spartanburg and sent to York through first class mail, said David Hamilton, York County's clerk of court. Hamilton said he spoke to a clerk in Cole's office who confirmed Cole's ruling. Cole has been assigned the case because of potential conflicts of interest among York County judges who knew Roberts.
The ruling means prosecutors can present the case against Phillips to a grand jury and seek an indictment, which is required before the case can be brought to trial.
The case will be prosecuted by 13th Circuit Solicitor Bob Ariail of Greenville because Phillips' lawyer asked that 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett, the prosecutor for York and Union counties, be removed from the case because Brackett also knew Roberts for almost 20 years.
Efforts to reach Ariail for comment were unsuccessful.
The ruling "is good news, and we are ready to go forward," said York Police Chief Bill Mobley.
Cole's ruling comes almost two months after a hearing was held to determine whether police had probable cause to arrest Phillips.
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