Love, strength and the color purple, representing the fight to end domestic violence, filled a Spokane courtroom Friday morning, as the friends and family of Kassie Dewey gathered to watch her killer get sent to prison.
Joshua P. Phillips, 43, wore a lime green jumpsuit as he was wheeled into the courtroom where Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno sentenced him to 36 years for killing Dewey and stabbing her 5-year-old daughter.
A nurse at Eastern State Hospital and mother to three, Dewey was spontaneous and free, her aunt Kristina Ralls told the court.
“Her zest for life was enviable,” Ralls said.
Phillips, who pleaded guilty to premeditated first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder last month, had been dating Dewey.
The relationship soured and Dewey broke things off. During the next two days, Phillips, who had a history of domestic violence, sent Dewey about 100 text messages that investigators called “very disturbing,” according to court documents.
On April 11, 2021, Phillips attacked Dewey inside her garage at 5127 N. Adams St., stabbing her numerous times. He then attacked 5-year-old Lilly.
Dewey’s older children arrived to the house to find the garage locked and something clearly wrong. They called 911.
Lilly, who was critically injured, survived the attack.
“My mother was one of the best moms you could ever get,” Dewey’s son told the court Friday.
April 11 was the worst day of his life, he said, watching his little sister covered in blood be carried into an ambulance.
“You have broken my heart into pieces that will never come back,” the boy told Phillips.
His older sister told the court she still struggles with blaming herself for her mother’s death, wishing she could have done something to prevent what happened.
“I wish my sister didn’t have to explain to others why she has scars,” she said as her dad comforted her, while also physically blocking Phillips from view.
The teenage girl said she is still working through her grief.
“No amount of jail time will bring my mom back, but I hope you realize what you’ve done,” she said.
The teenager’s friend, who was also at the house when the attack was discovered, told the court about her last conversation with Dewey, where she reminded her to be good.
“I try to find my good,” she said.
Bobi Dewey, Kassie Dewey’s cousin, said the family has become stronger through this experience and are ready to move on.
They are putting all their pain, anger and heartbreak onto Phillips, she said.
“Take back what you caused us,” she said.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Amanda Fry said the prosecutor’s office went through extensive negotiations to reach a plea agreement in the case. Fry said she believes the agreement balanced accountability with avoiding further traumatizing Dewey’s children, who would have been required to testify at trial.
“This was obviously an incredibly difficult case,” Fry said.
She asked for a sentence of 20 years for Dewey’s murder and 15 years for Lily’s assault.
Victoria Blumhorst, Phillips’ attorney, agreed with the recommendation. She noted Phillips has been depressed for years and used alcohol to self medicate.
He was left with ongoing health issues after a suicide attempt in 2019 that continue to impact his health today, she said.
Phillips, who declined to speak to the court, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
“Mr. Phillips would like to turn back time and not commit the heinous acts that brought us here today,” Blumhorst said. “He is hoping that by closing this chapter, healing for all of you can begin.”
Moreno followed the attorneys’ recommendation and sentenced Phillips to 432 months in prison.
Hundreds of people mourned Dewey shortly after her death, and her story has continued to affect the community as one of many tragic instances of domestic violence.
“One of the most dangerous times for someone involved in domestic violence is when they’re trying to leave that violent partner, as we saw,” Spokane Police Detective Ben Green said. “Reaching out to somebody, talking to family, talking to friends, reaching out to some of our local resources… you are not alone.”