Local News

Moore Man Gets Death Sentences for Quadruple Homicide

Posted October 17, 2007 3:22 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2007 11:21 p.m. EDT

— A Moore County jury handed up four death sentences Wednesday in the trial of a man found guilty of killing four people in a December 2003 robbery.

The jury took about four hours to decide the punishment of Mario Lynn Phillips, 35, who was the first of three people to go to trial for the quadruple homicide.

Eddie Ryals, 21, Carl Garrison Justice, 18, and Harvey Darrell Hobson, 20, all of Carthage, and Joseph Allen Harden, 19, of Vass, were killed on Dec. 19, 2003, in a mobile home on Heron Road, east of Carthage. All four had been shot and stabbed in what authorities said was a robbery. They said the three suspects made off with $170.

Amanda Cook Varner, who survived being shot twice and stabbed 22 times that day, identified Phillips as the gunman and said Renee Yvette McLaughlin and Sean Maurice Ray assisted him in the crime.

Defense attorneys tried to convince jurors that Phillips shouldn't be convicted of first-degree murder in the case because he is mentally ill, was addicted to drugs at the time and somehow thought his friends were responsible for shooting his brother in Fayetteville earlier that same day.

The sentence comes as questions about North Carolina's death penalty have put executions on hold.

In August, Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ruled that the North Carolina Medical Board overstepped its authority when it adopted a policy that threatened to punish physicians for participating in executions.

The state Department of Correction sued the board in March, saying no physicians were willing to attend an execution, which state policy requires, for fear of losing his or her medical license.

Last month, attorneys for death-row inmates asked state officials to put off possible changes to North Carolina's execution protocol in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to address the constitutionality of lethal injections.