Woman who pleaded guilty to murdering St. George woman receives sentence

Composite image. Foreground photo courtesy of St. George Police Department shows 26-year-old murder victim Stevie Wilkerson. Background image depicts Fifth District Courthouse, Cedar City, Utah, April 15, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — One of the three people charged in connection with the death of 26-year-old St. George resident Stevie Wilkerson has been sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison.

Brittany Phillips appears at her sentencing hearing via video link from the Garfield County Jail, Panguitch, Utah, Dec. 13, 2021 | Image screenshot courtesy of 5th District Court, St. George News / Cedar City News

Brittany Elizabeth Phillips, 28, who had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of murder, a first-degree felony, was sentenced Monday afternoon by 5th District Judge Matthew L. Bell. 

As previously reported in St. George News / Cedar City News, Phillips is one of three defendants whom authorities have charged with involvement in Wilkerson’s death in August of 2020, with the other two being Joseph Edward Fought and Maida Janet Martinez-Westfall. The three cases are being adjudicated separately, although each is being heard by Bell.

The trio are accused of transporting Wilkerson in a pickup truck north from St. George and into a remote part of western Iron County during what were purportedly Wilkerson’s final hours on Aug. 9, 2020.

Wilkerson’s remains were located approximately two weeks later; a state medical examiner ruled she had died as a result of homicide by gunshot.

At Monday’s hearing, Phillips, who appeared via videoconference link from the Garfield County Jail in Panguitch, simply said, “No, your honor” when asked if she wanted to address the court prior to her sentencing. 

Iron County Attorney Chad Dotson speaks briefly during sentencing hearing for Brittany Phillips, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 13, 2021 | Image screenshot courtesy of 5th District Court, St. George News / Cedar City News

During the hearing, Phillips’ defense attorney Jeffery Slack said his client had been “very cooperative” in helping with the investigation. 

“She has given as much information as she possibly can to to help better her situation, and to help ease the feelings that she’s been feeling since this occurred,” Slack said. “She’s obviously struggling to find a little bit of peace in this life as a result of what’s happened.”

Slack added that his client is “ready to start working towards that which … the Board of Pardons deems necessary, so that she can work towards sometime getting out and living a productive life outside of being incarcerated.”

Iron County Attorney Chad Dotson also addressed the court briefly, telling the judge that his office had reached out to Wilkerson’s immediate family members and sent them the video link to the proceedings.

“We have not heard back and there appears to be nobody who would wish to speak today,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the prosecution, Dotson simply said, “As the court noted, prison is mandatory in this case. The state believes prison is appropriate. As Mr. Slack indicated, Ms. Phillips has cooperated with the investigation, to her credit. But this is a serious and tragic case. Accountability is necessary.”

Bell then handed down the sentence, noting that not only was a prison term mandatory, “It’s also deserved and necessary in this case.”

“I do hope that there is at least some small measure of closure, for the victim’s family to know that Ms. Phillips has accepted responsibility for her part in what can only be described as an unprovoked and senseless criminal act,” Bell added. “By participating in the taking of an innocent life, (you) spill into destroying other lives, including your own. These terrible actions bring severe consequences, and rightfully so.”

Fifth District Judge Matthew L. Bell speaks during sentencing hearing for Brittany Phillips, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 13, 2021 | Image screenshot courtesy of 5th District Court, St. George News / Cedar City News

Bell then pronounced the sentence, stating, “Miss Phillips, for the murder of Stevie Shay Wilkerson, the court sentences you to the Utah State prison for a term of not less than 15 years and which may be for life.”

“Whether you’re ever released from prison will now be up to the Board of Pardons,” Bell added.

The court waived any fines or fees associated with the sentence but did order Phillips to pay approximately $3,500 in restitution, with the final amount to remain open for another six months. 

Phillips was to begin serving her prison sentence immediately, Bell ordered.

Meanwhile, Martinez-Westfall, 36, also made a brief court appearance on Monday; her next status hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 31. She faces murder and kidnapping charges.

Additionally, Fought, 31, is also scheduled to appear on Jan. 31, for his arraignment. He has been charged with aggravated murder, a capital offense, in addition to kidnapping and other charges.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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