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Suspect in fatal stabbing had been released from prison in April

Donald T. Phillips, who told police he fatally stabbed another man he thought was a drug dealer at the downtown bus plaza Saturday, had been released in April from a seven-year prison stint for kidnapping and robbing a Spokane resident.

Phillips, 40, faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Sean K. Oie, 49.

Phillips told police he stabbed Oie once in the chest after the two got into an argument over drugs Saturday afternoon a few blocks from the Spokane Transit Authority bus depot.

Oie died shortly after the altercation, which took place about 3:30 p.m. Saturday and was captured on video cameras. A manhunt ensued and Phillips was apprehended about 9 p.m. in the Peaceful Valley neighborhood with the help of several residents.

A judge Monday ordered Phillips held on $500,000 bond.

A week after he left prison in early May, Phillips was wanted for “escaping community custody,” which means eluding or not maintaining contact with corrections officers. Witnesses at an apartment complex off Division Street, including a pregnant woman, said Phillips approached them in early May, asking for a cigarette. He later forced his way into the apartment, fondled himself and was pepper-sprayed before he left, according to court documents. Prosecutors planned to charge him with residential burglary, threats to kill and possession of a controlled substance after they found him carrying methamphetamine. He escaped custody sometime between his booking May 7 and a scheduled arraignment May 20.

Phillips has an extensive criminal history that includes nine felony convictions beginning in 1997 in Tennessee. A Spokane jury found him guilty of three counts of robbery and kidnapping in 2007, and he was sentenced to eight years in prison.

In that incident, Phillips approached the rear of a home near Whitman Elementary School in April 2006, pounded on the door and claimed he needed help, according to court documents. Phillips told the homeowner he needed a ride downtown and some cash. When the man gave Phillips a ride, he demanded money and threatened to kill the driver.

They visited two ATMs, with Phillips telling the man he’d kill him and hurt his family, including young children, if he didn’t comply. Phillips also said he had connections to the Mafia, according to court documents.

Phillips also pleaded guilty to possessing crack cocaine and marijuana packaged in McDonald’s sugar packets in December 2005. Witnesses said Phillips was offering the drugs for sale, according to court records.

Police arrested Phillips on Saturday after he had changed clothes at a residence in the 1400 block of Water Avenue. He told investigators he set the house ablaze to eliminate evidence and threw the folding knife used to stab Oie into the Spokane River. He also claimed Oie was selling heroin.

Oie’s criminal history includes multiple convictions for burglary, robbery, rendering criminal assistance and assault in Western Washington. But his record shows no arrests in Spokane for drug-related offenses. He was arrested in Spokane on suspicion of driving under the influence in February, according to court records.

Despite Saturday’s high-profile stabbing, Spokane has seen fewer homicides so far this year than in the same period in 2013. Oie’s death is the ninth reported homicide in Spokane County since Jan. 1. Three of those involved suspects shot to death by local law enforcement.

Sixteen of the 28 homicides reported by The Spokesman-Review last year occurred before June 7, 2013.

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