ELYRIA — The call came in just after 3 a.m. Sunday, breaking the sound slumber of Jerome Phillips Sr.
On the other end, it was his ex-wife’s sister calling with the worst news of his life, his son and namesake Jerome Phillips Jr. had been killed.
“I had to ask her three or four times because I couldn’t believe it,” said the elder Phillips. “You don’t how bad it hurts to lose your child until it happens to you.”
A single knife wound to the chest was the cause of death for Jerome Phillips Jr. and it was his only wound, according to the county Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans.
Phillips’ girlfriend, Anna Carter, 30, of Lorain has been charged with felonious assault and murder and is being held in lieu of $1 million bond at Lorain County Jail. She is due back in Lorain Municipal Court on Thursday.
The elder Phillips said he rushed to the hospital after getting the call, hoping the talk of his son’s death was exaggerated.
“I just couldn’t believe it was true,” he said. “I don’t know why this girl did this to him. My son was not a bad person. He was a happy go-lucky guy.”
Phillips said he wonders if Carter, who can be seen in police booking photos with a bruise on her forehead, will try to claim self-defense because of his son’s background. Phillips said a nurse told him Carter was knocking her head against the wall.
“She gave herself those bruises. My son is not like the way people are making him out to be,” Phillips said. “He wouldn’t harm anyone unless they put their hands on him first. He was a talker.”
In a nearly 18-minute 911 call, an at-times hysterical Carter said Phillips came home drunk to their apartment at 5520 Beavercrest Drive. Carter said he went to take a shower, but collapsed and began vomiting. Carter said Phillips was bleeding under his armpit.
Dispatcher: How’d he get the cut on his arm?”
Carter: “I don’t know. That’s what I’m saying.”
Phillips can be heard moaning and speaking faintly in the background early in the call. Later in the call, Carter said Phillips lapsed into unconsciousness although his eyes remained open.
“Jerome, baby. I love you so much. Please,” Carter said. “It seems like he’s (expletive) fighting for his life to breathe or something. Why?”
About 16 minutes into the call, Carter said Phillips has stopped breathing. The dispatcher tells Carter to give Phillips cardio pulmonary resuscitation. Paramedics arrive shortly thereafter.
Phillips, a 40-year-old father of six, was pronounced dead at 3:04 a.m. at Mercy Regional Medical Center roughly 30 minutes after he was stabbed in his apartment at 5520 Beavercrest Drive in Lorain.
Phillips, the oldest of six, had aspirations of being a stand-up comedian. He often posted YouTube videos of himself trying to hone his craft and was known to try his material out on family and friends.
“He thought the best way to make a living was to make people laugh,” his father said.
Phillips’ youngest brother, Justin Phillips, said as soon as his older brother walked through the door of any place, the laughter started almost immediately.
“He was the loudest person in our family and that’s saying something because we are all silly. That’s just our family. We like to clown,” he said. “But Jerome, he wanted everyone to enjoy him and the time they spent with him.”
Justin Phillips, 26, of Columbus, said the last time he saw his brother was in May. Phillips came to Columbus on an extended vacation and the two talked about his comedy dream. He wanted to go scout comedy clubs.
“But he didn’t stay long. Elyria and Lorain are home, and he wanted to go home,” Justin Phillips said.
Justin Phillips said he had no idea if Carter was the reason why his brother wanted to get back to Lorain County. He hadn’t met her and had no idea how long they were together.
“I don’t want to speak on her because I never knew her,” he said.
A Facebook page for Jerome Phillips Jr. has numerous photos of the couple dating back to April.
Justin Phillips said he also couldn’t speak to any claims the relationship between his brother and Carter was volatile.
Neighbors in the apartment complex where the couple shared an apartment said there was often a lot of screams coming from their unit, and Phillips would question people to find out if Carter brought other men around. Phillips also had an extensive criminal history including convictions for aggravated burglary, cocaine possession, domestic violence and stalking.
“His background isn’t the cleanest, but I never knew him to be a danger to someone,” said the younger brother. “I know he was convicted of domestic violence, but I never seen it with my own eyes or known him to argue with a female. I’m not trying to saying he was a saint. No one is perfect, but he didn’t deserve this. I wouldn’t have thought in a million years it would have been him.”
Police spokesman Lt. Roger Watkins said Monday he could not comment on the ongoing investigation.
Carter has no convictions for violent crimes in Lorain Municipal Court or Lorain Common Pleas Court. A felonious assault charge in 2010 was dismissed.
Funeral arrangements are still pending with Wyers Funeral Chapel in Elyria.