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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Car bomb - Murder-for-hire - To collect insurance money
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 1, 1996
Date of arrest: December 3, 2009 (in Austria)
Date of birth: 1958
Victim profile: Her former husband, Gary Triano, 53
Method of murder: A pipe bomb exploded in his car
Location: Tucson, Pima County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on May 22, 2014
photo gallery

Ariz. woman gets life sentence for husband's 1996 car bomb death

By Greg Fisher - CBS News

May 23, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. - One-time socialite Pamela Phillips proclaimed her innocence on Thursday in a Tucson courtroom as she was sentenced to spend "natural life" in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1996 murder of her husband, Gary Triano.

"I am innocent," Phillips repeated three times in a row, first facing the judge and then turning to address the packed courtroom gallery.

Pima County Judge Richard Fields was unfazed, ‎ expressing "great gratitude" to the jury which found Phillips guilty and contending that he had no "residual doubt" about the verdict before imposing the natural life sentence.

Tucson developer Gary Triano was murdered after walking off the golf course when a bomb exploded inside ‎his Lincoln Town Car on Nov 1, 1996.

In 2010, Ronald Young was tried and convicted as the hit man who acted in ‎a conspiracy with Phillips.

In both trials, prosecutors alleged the ‎motive for Triano's murder was a $2 million insurance policy.

This year in Phillips' seven-week long trial, her defense team argued that Phillips and Young were innocent of the crime.

The defense claimed to have unearthed a criminal conspiracy of shadowy organized crime figures who had executed Triano‎ over debts owed. They cited information from FBI reports from 1996 and 1997, including one that alleged Triano may have had mob connections.

However, those arguments failed to impress the jury which returned a guilty verdict in less than three days of deliberations after listening to seven weeks of testimony.

In court on Thursday, Triano's two children from his marriage previous to that with Phillips, and Triano's sister, had a chance to say their piece urging the judge to impose the "natural life" sentence prohibiting the possibility of parole.

‎"Pam who at one time was my stepmother and my friend," said Heather Triano, "destroyed lives due to her greed and love of money."

Heather Triano insisted "Pam's lack of thought for her own children is appalling," re‎ferencing Phillips' and Triano's two grown children Trevor and Lois Triano, neither of whom were in the courtroom.

Triano's sister and children all took issue with the defense characterization of their father as a mob associate and swindler. They said that he was a loving and dedicated father who was charitable to the community.

Prosecutor Rick Unklesbay urged the judge to give Phillips the maximum sentence explaining that he had ‎wrestled with deciding which of the two convicted killers committed a "worse" crime. Was it Young who murdered someone he hardly knew for money, or Phillips who committed the crime against her own children and family?

"On a gut level the one more responsible is the woman sitting here," he said, referring to Phillips, shackled in an orange prison jump suit.

Meanwhile, Paul Eckerstrom, Phillips' trial attorney‎, remained defiant alongside his client.

"This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my career, watch my client be sentenced when I know she's innocent, " added Eckerstrom.

He then explained Triano's murder "is a tragedy that haunted this community (of Tucson, Ariz.) and has been multiplied" by what he termed "the‎ injustice" of convicting an innocent woman.


Ex-Aspen socialite guilty in 1996 bomb death of ex-husband

By The Associated Press

April 8, 2014

TUCSON — A former Aspen socialite was found guilty Tuesday in the 1996 Tucson car-bomb killing of her ex-husband after spending years living a lavish lifestyle across Europe.

Pamela Phillips, 56, was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder after less than three days of deliberations that began last week. She faces life in prison at her May 22 sentencing.

During the trial, which began in February, Phillips' lawyers told jurors their client had nothing to gain from the death of businessman Gary Triano and that she was the victim of overzealous authorities who failed to follow other leads. They said Phillips was already a successful real estate broker with her own money, and suggested that Triano had numerous other enemies.

But prosecutors described Phillips as a gold digger who hired a former boyfriend to kill Triano to collect on a $2 million life-insurance policy in order to maintain her extravagant taste for the good life.

It has been nearly two decades since Triano died when his car exploded as he was leaving a Tucson-area country club after playing golf. Authorities said Phillips paid ex-boyfriend Ronald Young $400,000 to carry out the hit. Young was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to two life terms in prison, but jurors weren't allowed to consider his case while determining Phillips' fate.

"The state went after the easy marks," defense attorney Paul Eckerstrom told jurors during closing arguments, indicating that there were plenty of people with better motives to kill Triano. "You have to tell the state: 'You made a mistake.' "

Triano was a developer who made millions investing in American Indian bingo halls and slot-machine parlors in Arizona and California before Congress authorized tribes to open full-blown casinos. But after the real estate market declined and he lost control of his gambling interests, Triano went broke.

That's around the time Phillips filed for divorce, prosecutors said.

She eventually moved to Aspen and worked in real estate before meeting Young, and prosecutors said the two would later hatch a plan to kill Triano and collect on the policy.


Jury out for deliberations in Pamela Phillips trial

By Ina Ronquillo, Cory Marshall -

April 2, 2014

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Closing arguments come to an end in the Pamela Phillips murder-for-hire trial, Wednesday.

The Aspen socialite, who never personally testified, is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, accused of hiring a hit-man to kill ex-husband, Tucson businessman Gary Triano, back in 1996.

The state laid out their evidence, portraying Phillips as a woman who married for money.

Their main claim centers around the $2 million life insurance policy she took out on ex-husband, the $400,000 she is accused of transferring to convicted hit-man Ron Young and bombshell testimony from a former friend.

"She married what she thought was going to be a rich man. Her life was set. Now they are divorcing. She talks to her friends about taking him out and all this has to be just eating away at her," Prosecutor Rick Unklesbay told the jury.

Prosecutors also reviewed recorded phone conversations between Young and Phillips.

"It is time to hold Pamela Phillips responsible for her crimes. It is time to find Pam Phillips guilty."

Taking the afternoon, the defense started out their closing arguments with an apology, "It's about my client and don't take out anything we did on my client," Defense Attorney Paul Eckerstrom said during closing arguments.

Phillips' Attorney's pinned Triano's murder on late Tucson billionaire Neil McNeice, arguing Triano owed McNeice thousands and alleging McNeice brought in a parade of people to carry out the 1996 kill.

"Really, that's their evidence that Ron Young knew anything about building a bomb animated and argumentative?"

The defense also claims state investigators botched the investigation from the very start.

"The state could have had that if they followed their leads like they should have and they didn't. They could have been processing this case in 1997 or 1998. The state went after the easy marks, the woman who got a $2 million insurance policy and the guy that was extorting her."


Defense rests in week seven of Phillips' trial

By Cory Marshall -

April 1, 2014

TUCSON(KGUN9-TV) -Seventeen-years since Tucson businessman Gary Triano's death and seven weeks since the start of his ex-wife's trial, a verdict could be near in the Pamela Phillips murder-for-hire trial. Tuesday, on the eve of closing arguments, the defense rests their case.

During day 26 of the trial, Phillips' attorney's alleged investigators botched the Triano murder investigation, dismissing leads because they had already zeroed in on Phillips.

The defense once again focused on former convict, Jeffrey Morris. Morris testified two-weeks ago on behalf of the defense. Tuesday, the defense painted Morris as an informant, who was essentially dismissed by investigators early on in the Triano murder investigation and suggested investigators should have looked into Morris' story.

Eluding to a flawed investigation, Phillips' attorney's also questioned Det. Keith St. John on why he named Morris as an informant while interviewing other persons of interest. St. John headed the Triano murder investigation for the Pima County Sheriff's Department and is currently a detective with the Pima County Attorney's Office.

"I'm not sure if it's common practice or not. If i thought there was some danger to anybody involved we wouldn't have given the name but I did in this case," St. John said.

In 1997, Morris told federal agents he had information about Triano's murder, which he later admitted was an attempt to "cut a deal" for himself in connection with an unrelated case. Then, in 2012, he signed an affidavit repeating the same self-proclaimed lie he told investigator. Morris said he signed the affidavit because the defense's lead investigator, Gene Reedy, told him an "innocent woman is charged with the crime" and "really needs his help."

The defense also depicted convicted hit-man Ronald Young as a con-man, painting Phillips as a victim of blackmail by Young, further alleging the money transferred from Phillips to Young was a result of extortion.

"So, [con-men] are always looking to manipulate what the victim is thinking what the victim has though [and] what is going on," Former Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent James Wedick told the court, Tuesday.

"When you execute a warrant at a con-man's place, you can generally spend the whole day there [or] longer being able to pull out the documents [and] describe the documents in an orderly fashion just so you can log everything correctly and be able to report the executed search back to the judge," Wedick, who was hired by the defense as a security consultant, continued.

Previous testimony on behalf of the prosecution showed boxes of evidence seized from Young as part of the investigation.


Pamela Phillips Trial week four wraps, defense pins blame on billionaire

By Cory Marshall -

March 14, 2014

TUCSON(KGUN9-TV) - Week four of the Pamela Phillips trial came to a close, Friday, as the defense puts the blame on Tucson billionaire, Neil McNeice.

The son of a Wyoming uranium prospector, Phillips' attorney's say Neil McNeice, who died several years ago, had the means and the motive to kill Tucson businessman Gary Triano back in 1996.

Friday, Dr. Lawrence Patrick D'Antonio took the stand. D'Antonio was hired by McNeice's mother to essentially act as a custodian, watching over him, during portions of McNeice's adult life. D'Antonio went on to give a full narrative of his history with McNeice, detailing the late billionaire's apparent drug use and referring to McNeice as not only "eccentric" but "crazy."

Strangely, the only picture the defense of Neil McNeice is a picture of McNeice after he died The postmortem picture was shown by the defense as evidence during testimony.

"Yes, but I wouldn't describe Neil as a friend. You called him a friend. I had a lot of trouble liking him," D'Antonio told Phillips' attorney during testimony.

He later said, "He was a saint. He was a wonderful guy and I miss him very much," referring to McNeice when he was not on drugs, contradicting his earlier testimony.

The testimony painted McNeice as an amoral billionaire with access to anything including; military weapons, dynamite and the ability to make a pipe bomb. D'Antonio also said McNeice had a "very bad opinion of Gary Triano." He talked about a "ring deal" where McNeice gave Triano $80,000 dollars in exchange for Phillips' wedding ring. The ring turned out to be a fake. This was part of the defense's effort to show Neil McNeice had the resources and motive to kill Triano or, at least, conspire to kill him.

"He was screaming and yelling that he was going to kill Gary Triano over this ring deal. He was very, very angry," D'Antonio said.

"Neil was an angry individual who would not use reason. He would pick people to hate and would vilify them and go after them with a passion and he was a scary individual," D'Antonio said, describing McNeice.

D'Antonio says McNeice kept a ledger of the people who owed him money. He had several people on a "kill list" which included Gary Triano and the lead singer of the band, Motley Crue, Vince Neil. A man named Terry White, McNeil's brother-in-law, was also on the list.

"He had a kill list. It was called kill list. Number one was Gary Triano, number two was Tom Billick, number three was Vince Neil and the other people I don't know who they were," D'Antonio later testified.

"His craziness -- I can't tell you why he picked people but most of the people he picked to hate owed him money," D'Antonio told the court.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Ryan Burke also testified during day 15 of the Pamela Phillips murder-for-hire trial, as part of his continued testimony. Agent Burke has worked for the FBI for 25 years and was based in Tucson from 1995-1997. He interviewed former convict, Jefferey Morris, who testified Wednesday as part of the defense's work to prove someone else entirely killed Triano.

Morris previously told prosecutors that he lied to federal agents in 1997, telling Agent Burke he knew information about Triano's murder, in an attempt to "cut a deal" for himself in connection with a completely separate case. He admitted to repeating the lie again in 2012, signing an affidavit after the defense's lead investigator, Gene Reedy, told him an "innocent woman is charged with the crime" and "really needs [Morris'] help." Agent Burke told the court Friday they did not find [Morris'] story credible.


Pamela Phillips Trial Day 13: Witness describes Triano as 'anxious and desperate' day before his death

By Cory Marshall -

March 12, 2014

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -Stressed, anxious and desperate-- that's how one witness described murdered Tucson businessman, Gary Triano, the day before his death.

Wednesday, during day 13 of the Pamela Phillips trial, one of Triano's high school friends took the stand. Steven Spitzer graduated with Triano and the two reconnected in the 1990's. Spitzer, who was a mortgage broker at the time, told the court Triano met with him and his father the day before he died, asking for a $50,000 loan. Spitzer recalled a very desperate and anxious Triano, something he says, was out character. Prosecutors argued that Triano could have been stressed because he simply did not have any money left.

"He was pushing for the loan, major big time and he was concerned be weren't going to give him the loan and when my father who was in charge of the business said Gary you know we need collateral what is there and he says, 'well, i need the $50,000 tonight and we can take care of it tomorrow.' Tomorrow never happened and the loan never happened," Spitzer said.

Jeffery Morris also took the stand. He requested his face not be shown on camera. Judge Richard Fields granted the request. Morris' testimony was part of the defense trying to prove someone else killed Triano.

At the time of the bombing, Morris was serving time in another state for an unrelated crime. Morris told the court he thought, at that time, he still had 5-10 years left in his sentence. In trying to "cut a deal" for himself, he told federal authorities that he knew information in connection with the 1996 bombing.

Morris told prosecutors Wednesday that he did not have any information and was trying to "cut a deal" for himself. In 2012, he signed an affidavit repeating the lie he told federal authorities in 1997. He went on to say ,tainted by his own personal prison experience, he signed the affidavit because the defense's investigator told him an "innocent woman is charged with the crime" and "really needs [Morris'] help."

"He kept telling me about this innocent woman and you know, I'll tell you if I could, even though I've been out of prison for 16 years, done nothing wrong since, expect for the traffic ticket I got two weeks ago, there's still a little something in the back of me that just -- I have a real problem with prison," Morris testified.

"Gene Reedy [the defense's investigator] really told me a story and I thought that I could probably help but yet keep my distance, not help too much, but help a little and just be able to extricate myself with it and go back about my business," Morris continued.

At one point prosecutors bluntly asked Morris if he had anything to do with the murder of Gary Triano. Morris said no.

Before court reconvened following a lunch break, Wednesday, the defense brought their paralegal and legal secretary to the stand who claimed Det. Keith St. John was shaking his head and nodding during Morris' morning testimony, eluding that Det. St. John was signaling answers to Morris. Det. St. John works for the Pima County Attorney's Office and sits alongside the prosecution during the trial. Morris denied such cues. Judge Fields told the court that while shaking of the head or nodding is human nature it is not appropriate in the courtroom. The motion was dismissed.

The defense also called Marta Ward to testify. In 1996, Ward worked at the Westin La Paloma as a housekeeping supervisor. Ward was not at the country club at the time of the bombing, however, she had worked earlier in the day.

Ward told the defense that she stopped in the parking lot to talk to a co-worker before leaving. Ward also testified that as she was leaving she saw a wine-colored Jaguar in the parking lot. She said that she thought it was unusual that the car was parked in the bike lane on Sunrise because it was "a nice car." Ward says no one was in the car at the time and the car did not appear to have any "problems." Ward contacted police the day after the bombing, notifying investigators of what she saw. The testimony was part of the defense's continued argument that someone else killed Tucson businessman Gary Triano, continually bringing up witness accounts of "suspicious" or "unusual" cars seen near the La Paloma Country Club parking lot moments before or after the 1996 bombing.

Prosecutors have repeatedly argued that several witnesses to the bombing have given different vehicle descriptions. Prosecutors said Ward did not know why the wine-colored car was parked in the bike lane on Sunrise or how long the car was parked there.


Pamela Phillips Trial Day 10: Phone conversations, voicemails played in court

By Cory Marshall -

March 6, 2014

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The Pamela Phillips trial reached a turning point, Thursday, as prosecutors called their last and final witness.

During day 10 of the murder-for-hire trial, prosecutors played recorded telephone conversations between the Aspen socialite and convicted hit-man Ronald Young, marking the first time jurors heard Phillips' voice since the trial's start.

The tapes are somewhat controversial. Phillips defense attorney's argued their use during Young's trial in 2010. Thursday, the defense objected to their playback, once again, arguing the ability to authenticate the tapes. Judge Richard Fields overruled. However, some of the tapes content has been redacted.

Below are transcribed portions of the played recordings.

Phillips: There's got to be another way to do this. There's got to be another way.

Young: The idea was--

Phillips: This was short term thing.

Young: Over and Over, is until the coast was very very...

Phillips: It was a short term thing.

Young: Until the coast was very, very clear, that we just keep it until extremely cautious untraceable situation where we have...

Phillips later said during the same phone conversation:

Phillips: If I have to kill myself and go to my grave and not say a word, I'll do that but I'm just so miserable.

As prosecutors played the tapes, Phillips remained very focused, listening along with the rest of the courtroom and reading the accompanying transcripts.

Below is a separate phone conversation, between Phillips and Young, jurors also heard during Thursday's court proceedings.

Phillips: I am very serious about this.

Young: Well, I tell you, you're going to be very serious when you sit in a women's prison for murdering--when you sit in a prison for murder. You're going to be really sad.

Phillips: I'm going to be back and forth.

Young: No, you're going to be in prison for murder.


Pamela Phillips Trial Day 7: Testimony focuses on convicted hit-man, emails

By Cory Marshall -

February 28, 2014

TUCSON(KGUN9-TV) -Day 7 of the Pamela Phillips trial continued, Friday, turning toward computer forensic evidence and convicted hit-man, Ronald Young.

A jury convicted Young in the car bomb murder of Tucson businessman Gary Triano in 2010.

Testimony primarily surrounded a conversation Rombach had with Young in the late 70s-early 80's about on his boat. According to earlier statements made to police and referenced during witness testimony, Young asked Rombach about cannons he had on the boat, made out of pipe that Rombach used in several musical performances.

The prosecution referenced parts of the conversation where Young asked Rombach what would happen if he capped the pipe. Prosecutors eluding to possible research about pipe bombs and the pipe bomb that killed Triano.

"The word accomplice was used, yes," Rombach told the prosecution. "You didn't want to be seen as one? " Prosecutor Rick Unklesbay asked. "That's correct," Rombach answered, "Is that why you withheld this information?" Unklesbay followed. "I didn't withhold that information [but] I didn't volunteer this information when the question wasn't asked and that was part of the reason for it," Rombach said after a long pause.

The defense narrowed in on Young's finances. Rombach testified that the last time he saw Young, Rombach paid for lunch because Young could not cover the cost, the move trying to show that if Phillips allegedly paid Young to kill her ex-husband, he would have had money.

A problem that came up during Friday's portion of the trial and foreseen since it's start, is that so much time has passed since the explosion and since police interviews were conducted, many of the witnesses questioned do not remember specific details and would state, "I do not recall." Council would often ask witnesses to refer back to their original documented statements to police.

Friday, Detective John Mawhinney also took the stand. Mawhinney is a Detective with the Pima County Sheriff's Department and one of two Computer Forensics Examiners and Cell Phone Examiners with the department. His testimony focused on computer forensics investigation.

Mawhinney did not get involved in the investigation until 2006, 10 years after Triano's death. Mawhinney uncovered emails between Young and Phillips as part of the investigation, which involved, he said, going through thousands of emails.


Pamela Phillips trial continues, expert witnesses present pipe bomb replica

By Cory Marshall -

February 21, 2014

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Day three of the Pamela Phillips trial continued, Friday. The Aspen socialite is charged with first-degree murder and accused of hiring a hit man to kill her ex-husband, Tucson businessman Gary Triano, back in 1996. Triano died in a fiery car bomb explosion after playing a round of golf at La Paloma Country Club.

Testimony focused on explosive evidence including remnants of a canvas bag, batteries, wood fragments and wood screws recovered from the scene. Expert witnesses from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were called to the stand.

Friday, defense argued that there was a significant gap in ATF report. The report was not written until 2003, seven years after the explosion. Officials with ATF say they were severely understaffed at the time.

According to ATF's Bradley Cooper, at the time of the bombing, Cooper was assigned to other high-profile cases including the 1999 Columbine shooting. Cooper admits that the case was, "put on [the] back burner." However, Cooper told prosecutors the seven-year delay in writing the report did not hinder analysis.

Defense also brought up a lack of DNA analysis. According to Cooper, "DNA analysis wasn't even dreamed of at that time when it came to pipe bombs."

For the first time during the trial, ATF agents presented the reconstructed replica of the pipe bomb, they say, was used to kill Triano.

"The bomber would have been in line of sight extending the antenna if he wanted to get further away not necessarily having to enter it all the way, obviously that draws a lot of attention," ATF explosive enforcement officer Anthony Mays said referring to the remote-controlled replica he reconstructed.

The explosive enforcement officer also testified that he had never seen a "futaba system" remote controlled explosive device prior to this investigation.

Also shown in court, the actual life insurance policy documents Phillips took out on Triano's behalf.

Julie long, a customer service supervisor for American-amicable Life insurance was called to the stand. She reviewed the initial life insurance claim for Triano.

According to the documents, the $2 million policy started on November 5, 1992 -- almost exactly four years before Triano's death on November, 1996.

Throughout the day-long testimony, Philips remained quiet often smiling and looking directly into the camera.


Pamela Phillips, former Aspen socialite, on trial in businessman's car bomb killing

By Brian Skoloff - Associated Press

February 20, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. —A once-prominent Aspen socialite charged in the 1996 Tucson car bomb killing of her ex-husband had nothing to gain from his death and is the victim of overzealous authorities who failed to follow other leads, the woman's lawyer says.

However, prosecutors during opening statement Wednesday described Pamela Phillips as a gold digger who hired a former boyfriend to kill businessman Gary Triano to collect on a $2 million life insurance policy. They say she wanted the payout to maintain her lavish lifestyle as her finances dwindled.

It's been nearly two decades since Triano died when his car exploded as he was leaving a Tucson-area country club after playing golf.

Authorities say Phillips paid ex-boyfriend Ronald Young $400,000 to carry out the hit. Young was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to two life terms in prison, but jurors aren't allowed to consider his case while determining Phillips' fate.

Phillips, 56, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

"Gary Triano lived on the edge, the financial edge ... He borrowed a lot of money from all sorts of people, many people who maybe were connected with organized crime," defense attorney Paul Eckerstrom told jurors. "That's who we think did this. That's who killed Gary Triano, not Pamela Phillips."

Prosecutors presented a wildly different theory of a woman who grew accustomed to the high life and found herself struggling financially with an easy way out.

"There is one reason that Gary Triano was murdered. One reason. He was murdered because his death benefited Pamela Phillips in a big way — $2 million is a hell of a motive," prosecutor Nicol Green said.

Triano was a developer who made millions investing in Indian bingo halls and slot-machine parlors in Arizona and California before Congress authorized tribes to open full-blown casinos. But after the real estate market declined and he lost control of his gambling interests, Triano went broke.

That's around the time Phillips filed for divorce, prosecutors say, because Triano could no longer support her expensive tastes.

"All of a sudden, the lifestyle that this defendant insisted on and expected was no longer there," Green said.

The couple, who had two children together, separated, but Phillips remained the beneficiary of Triano's insurance policy, paying the premiums herself.

She eventually moved to Aspen and worked in real estate before meeting Young. The two would soon hatch a plan to kill Triano and collect on the policy, Green said.

"They were talking about it for years," Green said.

Young later left Aspen while being investigated by police for fraud, and turned up in Tucson briefly in the summer of 1996.

"The reason he comes to Tucson was that he and Pamela Phillips had already agreed to kill Gary Triano," Green said.

After the killing, Young was on the run from a warrant for his arrest in Colorado on fraud charges while Phillips was sending him money for the hit, eventually adding up to $400,000, Green told jurors.

The investigation into Triano's killing stalled until Young's arrest in 2005. Authorities say he kept detailed records of his financial transactions with Phillips, including recorded telephone conversations and invoices. Green said police also found divorce records pertaining to Phillips and Triano in a van rented by Young. That's when Young and Phillips became the key suspects.

By then, Phillips had received the $2 million insurance payout and had left Aspen for a life abroad.

She was arrested in Austria in 2009 and extradited to Tucson. Her case was delayed after a judge ruled she was mentally unfit to stand trial at the time.

Phillips' attorneys, meanwhile, say the evidence against her is flimsy, and that Phillips was already wealthy with her own money. They say Young didn't even kill Triano, raising the specter that it could have been a hit by a jilted investor, one of whom Triano was about to file a $10 million lawsuit against.

"So when the state tells you that nobody else had anything to benefit from Gary Triano's death ... that's just not true," Eckerstrom said. "There's people out there that are angry with him ... And remember, benefit can be driven by revenge."


17 years after Triano bomb death, his ex-wife is going on trial

By Patrick McNamara -

February 16, 2014

More than 17 years after a fiery explosion killed a prominent real estate investor and rocked Tucson, his ex-wife will stand trial for masterminding the murder of Gary Triano.

Jury selection in the trial of Pamela Phillips, who collected $2 million in life insurance after Triano died, is to begin this week in Pima County Superior Court.

Phillips, 56, is accused of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of her former husband, who was killed when a pipe bomb exploded in his car after he played a round of golf at La Paloma.

Triano’s public murder on Nov. 1, 1996, was huge news in Tucson. It wasn’t just that a bomb had torn apart Triano’s body and ripped the roof from his car — a method of killing more associated with political assassinations — but Triano was a well-known, some might say infamous, Tucson dealmaker.

He had made millions in Indian gaming ventures and was involved in scores of major real estate and business deals in the region. He had made an unsuccessful run for a Tucson City Council seat.

Along the way, he had accumulated a list of enemies.

At the time of his death, court records showed Triano was or had been a defendant in at least 54 civil cases. Many of those cases accused him of nonpayment to business partners or defaulting on loans.

Arizona Daily Star archives show lenders and former associates of the deceased businessman had filed cases seeking a total of more than $9 million from Triano.

Prosecutors plan to argue that one of Triano’s most vehement enemies was his scorned ex-wife.

Triano and Phillips wed in San Diego in 1986 after a brief romance. By 1993, however, the marriage had deteriorated.

The couple filed numerous restraining orders against each other before finalizing their divorce in November 1993.

The state’s case against Phillips is expected to center on Triano’s $2 million life insurance policy, for which Phillips was the trustee.

The couple had purchased the policy in 1992. Their two children were later named the beneficiaries.

Phillips maintained payments on the policy after the divorce but later handed responsibility of payment of the policy to a friend.

Phillips received the more than $2 million benefit in 1997, months after Triano’s death.

Prosecutors say Phillips paid a man she met in Aspen, Colo., where she moved after the divorce, $400,000 to kill her ex-husband.

That man, Ronald Young, was named a person of interest almost immediately after Triano’s death. A rental car Young abandoned in California the month before Triano’s killing held documentation police said linked him to the crime, including Phillips’ divorce papers and credit report.

Young fled, however, not turning up again until 2005 when he was arrested in Florida.

He was tried for Triano’s death in 2010 and found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

His attorneys argued Young had learned the details of Triano’s killing from Phillips and used it against her, extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from her.

Correspondences between the two over the years showed numerous squabbles over money Young thought he was owed from Phillips.

Police named Phillips a possible suspect in the case in 2006. She left the country in 2008, living in Europe until she was arrested in Austria in late 2009.

She was charged with Triano’s murder in 2010.

The tale of Triano’s murder drew national attention. His death has been featured on television shows such as “America’s Most Wanted” and “Dateline.”

A nonfiction crime book has been written about the case and Phillips even tried to shop around a movie deal about her life after her arrest.

The long-anticipated trial is expected to last six weeks.


Oct. 4, 1986: Gary Triano and Pamela Phillips marry in San Diego.

September 1992: Tirano and Phillips buy $2 million life insurance policy for Triano. The couple’s two children are the beneficiaries but Phillips is named trustee.

September 1993: Phillips seeks the first of three restraining orders against Triano, whom she said harassed and threatened her.

November 1993: Triano and Phillips divorce.

March 1994 Triano’s company, Frontier Investments, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization with assets of $1.36 million and debts of nearly $26.8 million.

March 1994: Phillips twice files police complaints against Triano, saying her ex-husband continues to harass her. Triano answers with a court claim against Phillips, accusing her of malicious prosecution and defamation. The case is thrown out.

March 10, 1994: Phillips is arrested for dumping a glass of water on Triano at the Pima County Courthouse during a break at a hearing related to their divorce settlement.

October 1995: Triano’s life insurance policy is changed to make Phillips’ friend, Joy Bancroft, responsible for premium payments.

October 1996: Police in Yorba Linda, Calif., recover an abandoned car rented by Ronald Young. Inside are a sawed-off shotgun, a laptop computer, a credit report in Phillips’ name and Triano’s and Phillips’ divorce records.

Nov. 1, 1996: When Triano returns to his car at La Paloma Resort after playing golf, a bomb explodes, scattering pieces of the car for hundreds of feet and killing Triano.

Nov. 1, 1996: Phillips sends a missed October payment on Triano’s life insurance policy. Following an investigation, the company pays the claim, totalling $2.2 million. Phillips declines requests from Pima County Sheriff’s investigators to take a lie detector.

August 1997: Joint police task force investigating Triano’s murder disbands. Phillips tells the Arizona Daily Star: "I'm sad that they were unable to find whoever did this,” adding, "The tragedy lives on."

Nov. 19, 2005: TV’s “America’s Most Wanted” airs a profile of Young, calling him a “person of interest” in the case, at the request of U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Nov. 21, 2005: Based on a tip from a viewer, police in Florida arrest Young on outstanding felony fraud charges in Aspen, Colo., where he initially met Philips. State charges against him are eventually dropped, but he is convicted on federal gun violations and spends a year in federal prison.

Sept. 6, 2006: Pima County Sheriff’s investigators search Phillips’ Aspen home and publicly name her as a suspect in Triano’s death.

November 2007: Triano’s children from his first marriage file a wrongful death civil case against Phillips and Young.

September 2008: Phillips leaves the U.S. for London and then Milan, Italy. Her attorneys later tell Pima County Sheriff's investigators she has gone to live near her daughter in Switzerland.

October 2008: Young is arrested in Yorba Linda, Calif., on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

November 2009: Triano’s children prevail in the wrongful death case against Phillips and Young. Judge awards them $10 million.

Dec. 3, 2009: Phillips is arrested in Vienna, Austria in connection with Triano’s murder.

February 2010: Young goes on trial. His defense team argues he had nothing to do with Triano’s murder, but that he learned details from Phillips and used the knowledge to extort her.

March 2010: Jury finds Young guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He’s sentenced to life in prison. The Arizona Appeals Court later rules a new sentence must be imposed and Young is sentenced to 25 years to life.

July 2010: Phillips is extradited to Tucson from Austria. She’s arraigned on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

October 2010: Phillips’ defense team seeks mental health evaluations for their client.

March 2011: Doctors who perform preliminary mental-health exams determine Phillips is “malingering” or exaggerating her symptoms. She is deemed competent to stand trial.

September 2011: A Pima County judge reverses his decision and agrees to have Phillips undergo a full mental health check.

December 2011: Phillips is declared incompetent to stand trial, but doctors say she can be restored to competency.

October 2012: Doctors determine Phillips is competent to stand trial.


Aspen Socialite, Ex-Lover Accused In Fatal Car Bombing

Swiss Law Firm Will Represent Pamela Phillips In Murder-For-Hire Case

December 18, 2008

An Aspen socialite, accused in the Arizona bombing murder of her ex-husband, has hired a law firm from Switzerland to defend her.

Pamela Phillips, 51, also has an unrelated case involving an August arrest for an alleged driving under the influence offense in Pitkin County.

The Geneva-based law firm of Borel & Barbey will represent Phillips in the Arizona murder case, the Aspen Times reported.

Phillips is the ex-wife of Arizona businessman Gary Triano, who was killed in 1996 when his car exploded in the parking lot of a Tucson country club. He died after playing a round of golf on his 53rd birthday. Friends were waiting to take him to a surprise birthday party when they learned he had been killed.

Arizona authorities allege that Phillips moved to Aspen after the divorce and then paid her lover $400,000 to kill her ex-husband. Authorities said she wanted to collect a $2 million life insurance policy left for their two children, but held by Phillips, until the children turned 18.

Police said Phillips' lover, Ronald Young, 66, was the man who placed the pipe bomb in a canvas bag and put it on the passenger seat of the Lincoln Town Car that Triano was driving when he was killed in Arizona.

In 2006, federal authorities executed a search warrant at Phillips' Aspen home. Authorities later released the affidavit, which they said chronicled the relationship between Phillips and Young. Recorded conversations included threats, blackmail, money drops, a secret romance, and evidence of conspiracy in the 1996 slaying, according to investigators.

Although Phillips and Young were "persons of interest" in the slaying, no arrests were made until last October, when Young was apprehended in Yorba Linda, Calif., after an Arizona grand jury issued an indictment on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and first-degree murder.

Young fled to Aspen in 1996. The original search for Young was featured in a 2005 episode of "America's Most Wanted.



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