Linn County Metro

Man enters Alford plea in 1999 death outside Cedar Rapids home

DeShaun Phillips admits he intentionally caused death of Judith Weeks

Deshaun Phillips makes his initial appearance in Linn County District Court with his attorney Tyler Johnston on a first-degree murder charge in the 1999 homicide of Judith Weeks in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Deshaun Phillips makes his initial appearance in Linn County District Court with his attorney Tyler Johnston on a first-degree murder charge in the 1999 homicide of Judith Weeks in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The daughter of Judith Weeks said Thursday she was relieved DeShaun Phillips will be “held accountable for my mother’s death” outside a Cedar Rapids home in 1999.

“I feel like we can move on now,” Kristin Twilla, of West Liberty, said after Phillips’ hearing in Linn County District Court. “We have been prisoners for 17 years (waiting for a conviction).”

Phillips, 37, of Shakopee, Minn., originally charged with first-degree murder, entered an Alford plea to voluntary manslaughter on Thursday. In making an Alford plea, a defendant doesn’t admit guilt but admits the prosecution could likely prove the charges based on evidence.

Phillips faces up to 10 years in prison and will be required to pay victim’s restitution. He has been in an Iowa jail since 2013 after fighting extradition from Minnesota, where he was being held on a domestic abuse charge.

There is no mandatory minimum sentence on the manslaughter charge, so Phillips could be immediately eligible for parole, depending on any credit he would receive from prison time served in Minnesota, Assistant Linn County Attorney Monica Slaughter said. His sentencing is set for Aug. 23.

Phillips admitted during the hearing that he intentionally caused the death of Weeks, 44, by striking her with a drain pipe and/or strangling her on April 4, 1999 outside of 1319 Second Ave. SE.

According to court documents back in 1999, Weeks’ body was found nude from the waist down behind the Second Avenue address, and she had suffered an injury to her forehead.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Jordan Schier said he couldn’t explain why Weeks’ body was found without some clothing. The original complaint stated Weeks was killed during a sexual assault or robbery, but there was no evidence to prove either of those theories. Schier added that he also lacked the evidence to prove first-degree murder.

Slaughter said witnesses would have testified at trial that Phillips was in an argument with Weeks that led to her death.

Schier said he didn’t know what the argument was over. Phillips and Weeks didn’t know each other, he said.

Tyler Johnston, Phillips’ lawyer, said the minutes of testimony would show the case involved voluntary manslaughter.

Slaughter said at trial there would have been physical evidence, including Phillips’ DNA on Weeks’ purse, to place him at the scene at the time of her death.

Back in 1999, police said there was insufficient evidence for a murder charge, but investigators said they developed new information on Phillips when they arrested him in 2013. They wouldn’t elaborate on that evidence.

After Phillips’ arrest, Twilla said police told her it was DNA that led authorities to Phillips.

According to Iowa online court records, Phillips has been convicted of more than one burglary. He was released from prison on two third-degree and one second-degree burglary in February 2012 and was living in Minnesota.

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Map by John McGlothlen / The Gazette

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