LORAIN — Homicide victim Jerome Phillips Jr. was described at a Wednesday candlelight vigil as a funny, loving and sometimes troubled man.
“You had to actually know him to love him,” said Kimberly Sanford, mother of Alyssa Sanford, Phillps’ 19-year-old daughter. Sanford said Phillips was bipolar and a patient at the Nord Center. She said people sometimes misjudged him because he could be loud.
Phillips, 40, was fatally stabbed early Sunday in his Beavercrest Drive apartment. Stabbing suspect Anna Carter, Phillips’ girlfriend, faces murder and felonious assault charges. Carter, 30, was being held Wednesday at the Lorain County Jail in lieu of a $1 million bond and is due back in Lorain Municipal Court today.
Carter told a 911 dispatcher that Phillips came home drunk and fell down and she was unsure how he was injured, but relatives disputed her story. They said Phillips liked to smoke marijuana but rarely drank much alcohol.
Tiffany Bell, mother of four of Phillips’ children — Phillips had eight children, relatives previously said he had six — said she was with Phillips a few hours before he died. She said she dropped him off at his apartment. Bell said Carter was angry that Phillips was planning to leave Carter and reunite with her. She said Carter yelled at him in a phone call Saturday night.
Bell said she and Phillips were a couple when she and Carter were training to be nurse’s aides in 2010. Bell said Phillips left her to date Carter shortly thereafter. However, Bell said Phillips had a recent change of heart.
Bell said Phillips told her he was leaving Carter because Carter had been hitting him. Bell said Phillips said Carter kicked him down the stairs of their apartment June 28.
“He said, ‘I don’t want to hit her, but she’s going to have stop putting her hands on me,’” Bell said. “I said, ‘Jerome, you gotta do what you gotta do.’”
Carter has no convictions for violence, but in 2010 was charged with felonious assault after being accused of hitting a boyfriend with a car. The charges were dropped.
Phillips had an extensive criminal record including aggravated burglary, domestic violence and stalking convictions. Neighbors described Phillips as abusive, bizarre and controlling, but relatives described a different man.
They said Phillips, whose nickname was “Romey-Rome” was a part-time standup comedian who went out of his way to make people laugh. Bell said Phillips was a good man but could be violent when provoked.
“I’d hit him and he hits me back,” she said. “That’s what I expect.”
About 80 friends and relatives attended the vigil at Lakeview Park, which was sponsored by the Purple Lotus Project, a domestic violence prevention group. Lena Smith, Purple Lotus vice president, offered condolences to relatives of Carter and Phillips and said more must be done to reduce domestic violence.
There have been at least 35 domestic-violence-related killings in Lorain County since 1989, according to Genesis House, a domestic violence shelter. Last year, 68 people, 38 of them victims, were killed in domestic violence incidents in Ohio, according to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.
Smith said Phillips’ past shouldn’t be held against him, and Alyssa Sanford agreed. Sanford said people who judge her father by his criminal convictions didn’t know him.
“His past doesn’t mean anything,” she said. “He was a good person.”