Murder of former Mayor of York gets national spotlight - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Murder of former Mayor of York gets national spotlight

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In life, Melvin Roberts commanded respect. The former Mayor of York was also a longtime defense attorney. His murder is commanding attention - again. 

Thursday night at 10 o'clock, the cable channel Investigation Discovery will air an episode of 'Southern Fried Homicide' that focuses on the 79 year old's relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Julia Phillips; and her role in his murder back in 2010.

Police still don't know who actually killed Roberts. 

"And what we're really hoping for from the show is that it stirs more of an emotional response" said Lieutenant Rich Caddell of York Police. "For that person who really knows and they've been keeping it inside, maybe struggling with it for some time. Maybe with the show airing and sort of re-enacting the events of how it all took place - maybe it will trigger an emotional response for somebody."

Southern Fried Homicide's web page says the show "probes the juiciest stories from down in the bible belt" and "proves that ugliness lurks behind Southern beauty when cracks in moral society give way to cold-blooded murder."

The victim's sons said they agreed to do the show "to bring awareness to Dad's murder."

"Hopefully someone in the viewing audience will see it, realize maybe they know something" Ronnie Roberts said. "We know beyond a shadow of a doubt Julia was involved and she's been prosecuted and sentenced to life in prison. Now, we want anybody else involved."

"I look at it as Dad can't rest. I can't rest" said David Roberts. "I don't think he can rest until we find out what happened to him, we know everyone involved, and we prosecute everyone that was involved."

The brothers say they were not paid to do the show. "We did it  just trying to help police solve our dad's case" Ronnie Roberts said.

Phillips told police a robber attacked them. That when she arrived at Roberts' home in York, an assailant tied her up with duct tape and left her behind a wall.

She said the same person hit Roberts in his head, shot at him, and used a zip tie to choke him.

But investigators said Phillips had gunshot residue on her clothes even though she claimed she was 65 feet away - behind a wall.

Police never found the object used to hit Roberts, and the gun has not been recovered.

Detectives believe Phillips plotted Roberts' murder with a still unknown, unidentified person.

In September 2013, a York county jury convicted Phillips of murder.

She's serving a life sentence at Leath Correctional Institution. South Carolina's Department of Corrections online records say Phillips' prison job is a wardkeeper assistant. She has not had any disciplinary issues or attempted any escapes during her incarceration.

A family member who visits Phillips told WBTV that Phillips doesn't seem to be doing well, and that she appears to have lost a lot of weight.

But as Phillips spends the rest of her life behind bars, the killer - her accomplice - has not been caught.

A reward.

Earlier in June, York Police announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.

"We've been getting a lot of phone calls. We've been getting a lot of tips" said Lt. Caddell. "We've had several developments that have happened since the announcement of the reward. There's some stuff we did not know before. We've got some new names that have been generated and we're working now on the background and follow up to those names."

Lt. Caddell said police have received about a dozen credible leads that have taken investigators to Gaffney, Columbia, Spartanburg.

"Some of the names we knew before but we did not suspect them of being involved" Lt. Caddell said. "Now, in light of talking to these people  who have called us and who have given us this information - it has changed our view of a couple of people."

Police say they've contacted the attorney handling Phillips' appeal to try to schedule an interview with Phillips. No appointments have been set up yet.

Detectives and the victim's sons are hoping the reward money and the television show will reach the right person.

"We have a reward. We have leads coming in from that" said David Roberts. "We have the TV show. The investigation is active right now. There's a lot of things going on so I just think there's a lot of good momentum."

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