On the morning of November 12th, 1997, police in Marion, Illinois, were called to a house on State Street. Inside, the police found the lifeless bodies of sixty-one-year-old George “Bob” Phillips and his sixty-four-year-old wife Geneva Phillips. Bob had been shot directly in the face and his wife in the back. The Williamson County Coroner pronounced the couple dead by homicidal means. Bob’s sixteen-year-old son, Eric Phillips, and the couple’s white minivan were nowhere to be found.
George Robert “Bob” Phillips was born April 9th, 1936, in Spillertown. He was married to a woman named Arlene in the 1970’s, with whom he had a son and two daughters. The marriage ended in divorce, at which time Bob married Dorothy. Dorothy brought a nine-year-old daughter with her, who became Bob’s stepdaughter. On August 10th, 1981, the couple welcomed their son Eric George Phillips. By 1985, the couple had divorced. The same year, George married Geneva.
Geneva Louise Phillips was born July 25th, 1933, in Taylorville. Geneva was a mother to two sons of her own and a stepmother to Bob’s children after they married in 1985. She also had two daughters who passed away before she married Bob. Geneva worked as team member at Wal-Mart. George had retired from Ziegler Coal Company. The couple were members of the First Baptist Church, Marion Eagles, and Marion Country Club.
When Eric was a young teenager, he went to live with his mother in Florida for a few years. He returned to Marion, Illinois, to live with his father sometime around 1997. Neighbors said the boy seemed to have changed during the time he lived with his mother. A neighbor said the sixteen-year-old would shoot at birds with a BB gun and toss tomatoes in her pool. The neighbor said police often visited the home and that once Bob said, “Boy’s getting me in trouble” (Pearson, 1997). Eric was sent to an alternative high school at John A. Logan due to disciplinary issues. While Eric seemed to be getting into trouble, but nothing outrageous. Eric was sixteen when he started dating eighteen-year-old Lindsey Taylor.
Eric and Lindsey had a shared disdain for Eric’s father and stepmother. According to a friend and roommate of Lindsey, they frequently talked about killing Eric’s parents. According to this friend, they couple often talked about it and joked that they had killed Eric’s parents, but she never believed the couple was serious about their intentions. Tensions grew worse when Bob and Geneva limited Eric to spending time together to three days per week from six to ten in the evening.
On Monday November 11th, 1997, Eric and Lindsey were hanging out with Lindsey’s friend and roommate. She said that the couple told her they were going to kill Eric’s parents that night. The friend didn’t believe them, but stated they said, “We’re serious, we’re serious” (Goldstein, 1997). She said the couple left around midnight for Eric’s house. They returned around 1:30 am. At that time, she said the couple was joking around and in a very good mood. They took polaroid pictures together smiling and laughing. Then they gave the roommate $700 and left. Lindsey’s roommate said she assumed they were running away because Eric, who was underage, wanted to be with Lindsey despite his father’s objections.
The next morning, the bodies of Bob and Geneva Phillips were found in their home. They had both been shot with Bob’s shotgun. Bob had been shot in the face while Geneva had been shot in the back. It appeared that Bob was shot first and Geneva was shot as she was trying to run away from their assailant. Police notice the family minivan and sixteen-year-old Eric are missing. They quickly link Eric to Lindsey Taylor and learn that the couple was on the run.
The search for Eric and Lindsey spanned not only Illinois, but Ohio, Florida, Alabama, and Indiana as well. Different people who knew Eric and Lindsey believed it was possible the couple had left the state, but they had traveled north to Effingham, Illinois. They rented a hotel room at the Econo Lodge. The couple spent Tuesday shopping with a friend of Lindsey’s who lived in Effingham. As they were shopping and eating at Denny’s, Lindsey and Eric told her friend about what they had done the night before. The friend was so disturbed by the conversation that she told her parents, who contacted the police.
Just after midnight on Wednesday, November 12th, investigators gathered outside the Econo Lodge Motel. They began to prepare how to take the couple, who were considered armed and dangerous, into custody safely. As the investigators were making a plan to evacuate the building and use the SWAT team to arrest the suspects, Eric and Lindsey left their room and headed towards the stolen vehicle. They were taken into custody without incident. However, a handgun was found in Phillips’ pocket and other weapons were noted in the van.
While in custody, Lindsey Taylor calmly provided a videotaped confession. She said that pressured and cajoled Eric Phillips into shooting his father and stepmother. She said she did this before and during the murders. According to her confession, Eric was the triggerman, but she had conspired with him and encouraged him to kill Bob and Geneva. Eric confessed to shooting Bob and Geneva. The two were both charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Since Lindsey had turned eighteen a month before the crime, she was eligible for the death penalty. Eric Phillips, who was just sixteen, was charged as an adult and was eligible for life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In January of 1998, the prosecution and defense asked that the trials for Eric Phillips and Lindsey Taylor be separated. This motion was granted. The prosecution noted that since Taylor was eligible for the death penalty and Phillips was not, it was best to separate the trials. “To make sure there is not any problem on appeal in cases like these it is probably safer to sever this trial” the prosecutor, Charles Garnati, said (Goldstein, 1998). The defense also asked that the confessions be suppressed from trial, but this request was denied.
In May of 1998, Eric Phillips went to trial first. The defense team claimed that Eric killed his father in self-defense and accidently shot his stepmother. According to testimony from Eric and his half-sister, who had once been Bob’s stepdaughter, Bob was extremely abusive. Eric said that the night of the crime, his father caught him stealing his shot gun. Eric said he and Lindsey were planning to run away together to Ohio, but when his father caught him stealing the gun, he flew into a rage. Eric said he closed his eyes and fired the gun because he was trying to protect himself and his girlfriend, who he believed to be pregnant. He said that following the shooting, Lindsey and his stepmother began to struggle with each other. Eric said tried to help Lindsey get away from Geneva when the gun went off and Geneva was killed.
Eric described years of abuse at the hands of his father. He said his father once beat him with a belt until he lost control of his bladder. Eric said two days before the murders, his father threatened to kill both him and Lindsey. His stepsister described Bob as a violent man who beat and choked her mother regularly while they were married. She said that once her mother broke the yolk of the egg she was cooking Bob for breakfast, prompting him to choke her until she was nearly unconscious. Bob had allegedly threatened to kill her, her siblings, and mother on many occasions and made them hold his gun so that he could blame another family member if he actually decided to kill one of them.
Eric’s stepsister told the jury that the kids were not allowed in the kitchen without Bob’s permission. She described having to wait in the kitchen in case Bob needed something. She said she was responsible for cooking for him, getting him drinks, and anything else Bob asked for. She said that Bob threatened to smash Eric’s skull when he was just two weeks old. The prosecution and Bob and Geneva’s family said that these claims were not only untrue, but a disgusting and reprehensible attempt to blame the victim.
I could not find any information to confirm the allegations of abuse made by Eric and his stepsister. There are no criminal charges that I could find in Williamson County related to any violent acts by Bob Phillips or orders of protections against him. Bob was married three times, however, and it appears that his wife Geneva had filed for divorce in 1992, but the petition was dismissed. While there is no evidence of abuse, it is possible that Bob was not a very good husband. Despite the claims of abuse, Eric Phililps was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder.
The prosecution announced in December of 1997 that they would seek the death penalty for eighteen-year-old Lindsey Taylor. Charles Ganati, the State’s Attorney, said, “I believe it’s important to send a message to any person, especially young people, or teenagers, that if you commit a horrible murder in Williamson County that this state’s attorney will not be shy about seeking the death penalty” (Goldstein, 1997). Lindsey’s relatives were upset, stating the state was wrong to seek the death penalty against her since she is not the one who pulled the trigger. However, Eric was not eligible since he was a minor.
In June of 1998, Lindsey Taylor went on trial. She now claimed that her confession to the police was not completely accurate. She testified that she had no idea that Eric was going to kill his parents. She said she only gave the confession because she loved Eric and wanted to protect him by taking some of the responsibility. Her tears on the witness stand were not enough to overcome her calm and collected confession in which she stated she encouraged and urged Eric to kill his father and stepmother. The jury found Lindsey Taylor guilty of both counts of murder.
Eric Taylor was sentenced to life in prison, but this was reduced to sixty years for each murder, to run concurrently, in 2017. Lindsey Taylor was not sentenced to death, but to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Eric is currently serving at the Illinois River Correctional Center on a work release custody program. He is projected to be paroled in September of 2023. Lindsey Taylor is serving her two life sentences concurrently at Logan Correctional Center. She has received additional time for aggravated battery since her incarceration. She is not eligible for parole. Her appeals have all been denied.
Was Bob Phillips an abusive husband and father who terrified his son into killing him in self-defense? Is it fair that Eric, who actually pulled the trigger, will have a chance at freedom while Lindsey spends the rest of her life in prison? Did Lindsey manipulate her younger boyfriend into this unthinkable crime?
Goldstein, R. (1997). Marion couple slain; two teens charged. Southern Illinoisan. 12 Nov 1997
Goldstein, R. (1998). Taylor convicted. Southern Illinoisan. 26 Jun 1998
Goldstein, R. (1997). Friend: teens vowed to kill. Southern Illinoisan. 17 Nov 1997
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Rosenbery, P. (1999). Teen appeals life sentence. Southern Illinoisan. 12 Sep 1999
Goldstein, R. (1998). Guilty, guilty. Southern Illinoisan. 13 May 1998
Matthews, J. (1998). Boy says years of abuse led to killings. The Belleville News Democrat. 08 May 1998
Rosenbery, P. (2000). Murder conviction of Lindsey Taylor upheld. Southern Illinoisan. 22 Sep 2000
Petrowich, T. (2003) Woman who helped kill couple denied to have appeal. Southern Illinoisan. 16 Feb 2003
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Pearson, M. (1997). Couple faces murder charges. The Daily Chronicle. 13 Nov 1997
Perry, S. & Goldstein, R. (1997). Effingham teen’s tip leads police to suspects in Marion murders. Herald and Review. 13 Nov 1997
Goldstein, R. (1997). State will seek death for teen. Southern Illinoisan. 18 Dec 1997