Parents, son dead in apparent murder/suicide

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Crime tape and Sheriff's investigators are rare sights in the quiet Gulf Hills neighborhood.  But their reason for being there Monday would be shocking anywhere.

James Phillips, 76, his wife Joanne Phillips and their son, Samuel Joseph Phillips, 46, were found shot to death in their home Monday. Authorities believe Samuel was the gunman.

"This is just a gruesome crime," said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd.  "You've got three people dead, two of them murdered, and the other one committed suicide.  It's a pretty awful crime."

Byrd said the Sheriff's Department was alerted to the scene by Samuel's friend who said the man was distraught the last time he spoke with him.

"From what we understand, he had talked to who we believe was the suspect Friday and tried to talk to him, tried to call him over the weekend and couldn't get a hold of him and came over," said Byrd.  "That's when he discovered the three bodies."

Mother and daughter Jeanette Lindsey and Cherie Speight live next door.  They were horrified to hear the news.

"Just absolute shock," Speight said.  "Shock is the only thing.  You can never expect or suspect this to happen next door.  Especially to people of that caliber.  You know, committed to the community.  And just, you would never expect this."

Though they didn't know Samuel well, they described the Phillips as good neighbors.  Lindsey said she admired Joanne's dedication to James, who was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.  She also said she admired James' determination, describing him as an enthusiastic music lover and a friendly neighbor.

"I just couldn't believe that had happened. It is such a tragic thing to happen," Lindsey said.

"They were just wonderful people," Speight said.  "And mom is probably not looking forward to new neighbors. They were just wonderful people that you're not going to have an opportunity to know."

Sheriff's deputies collected evidence until well after dark.  They expect more details to become available after the autopsies are complete.

The family leaves behind a daughter who lives in Florida.  She was notified of the incident Monday afternoon.  Neighbors and officials said Samuel Phillips had a history of heavy drinking.  Officials don't know yet whether he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the shooting.

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