Originally created 07/01/00

Slain teen's boyfriend gets 20-year sentence



Professing his love still, an Augusta man pleaded guilty Friday to killing his teen-age girlfriend.

Raymond H. Phillips, 22, entered a plea Friday in Richmond County Superior Court to a single charge of voluntary manslaughter for the Oct. 10 shooting of 17-year-old April Parker. Doctors were unable to save Ms. Parker, who died the next day from a gunshot wound to the head.

Mr. Phillips entered what is called an "Alford plea," one in which the defendant acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict, although he does not specifically admit guilt.

"He does not remember shooting her," defense attorney Jim Blanchard said Friday. "He just will not admit he shot her."

Mr. Phillips has consistently maintained the shooting was accidental and occurred as the two struggled over a handgun Ms. Parker picked up.

But Mr. Phillips was initially charged and indicted on felony and malice murder charges, in addition to possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

The lead investigator testified at a court hearing last fall that the bullet passed in a straight line from the front to the back of Ms. Parker's head and that the shot was fired from a distance of less than four feet. Two witnesses also testified about threatening behavior Mr. Phillips had displayed toward Ms. Parker.

Senior Judge Bernard J. Mulherin Sr. accepted the plea negotiation, which called for Mr. Phillips' plea to the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter and acceptance of the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Mr. Phillips also gave up his right to appeal.

"I'm sorry," Mr. Phillips told Ms. Parker's family members in court Friday. "I lost, too. I loved April."

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226.