- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - The murder trial of a Colorado socialite-turned-fugitive in the 1996 car-bombing death of her ex-husband in Tucson went to the jury Wednesday as her defense lawyer implored jurors to “please right this wrong” and exonerate his client.

Pamela Phillips is charged with hiring a former boyfriend to kill businessman Gary Triano to collect on a $2 million life insurance policy in what prosecutors say was an attempt to maintain her lavish lifestyle.

Triano, a 52-year-old developer, died Nov. 1, 1996, when his car exploded outside a country club after he finished playing a round of golf.

A 17-inch pipe bomb filled with one pound of smokeless gun powder was detonated by remote control within 400 feet of Triano, investigators said.

Pima County Superior Court jurors will resume deliberations Thursday. The trial began in February.

Phillips, 56, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Her lawyers have argued that she had nothing to gain from the Triano’s death and that she was a successful real estate broker.

But prosecutors described Phillips as a woman who grew accustomed to the high life and found herself struggling financially.

“There is one reason that Gary Triano was murdered. One reason. He was murdered because his death benefited Pamela Phillips in a big way - $2 million is a hell of a motive,” prosecutor Nicol Green said during the trial.

Triano was a well-connected real estate developer who invested in bingo halls and slot-machine parlors in Arizona and California in the 1980s and hobnobbed with Donald Trump.

Phillips moved to Aspen, Colo., after her divorce with Triano and eventually settled in Switzerland as authorities sought arrest warrants for her and an accomplice. She was arrested in 2009 at an upscale hotel in Vienna.

The defense said investigators botched the case and overlooked key evidence that could implicate others who had a motivation to kill Triano - namely an associate named Neil McNeice.

McNiece, who is dead, apparently loaned Triano $80,000 at one point.

“You have to tell the state they made a mistake,” defense lawyer Paul Eckerstrom said in his closing argument, at times raising his voice and adding that prosecutors have relied on “innuendo” and “character assassination” to make their case. “Please, right this wrong.”

The investigation into Triano’s killing was cold until the arrest of Phillip’s ex-boyfriend, Ronald Young, in 2005. He was convicted of murder in 2010 and sentenced to life in prison.



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