Beryl woman back in jail in connection with alleged airplane theft

Composite image, St. George News / Cedar City News

ST. GEORGE A Beryl woman was arrested this week after she failed to appear for court hearings on charges that she allegedly took an aircraft from a hangar in November 2017 and abandoned it off the runway when it became damaged.

Monday’s arrest of Mary Sue Phillips, 41, is the latest step in a winding journey toward justice.

It began when a detective was dispatched to the Beryl Junction Airport in Iron County Nov. 25, 2017, on a reported theft of an aircraft and criminal mischief.

The plane’s owner told detectives that he had flown the day before and parked the plane in the hangar before he left for the day.

When he arrived that following day, he found the plane sitting off the runway near a metal I-beam far from the hangar. The aircraft’s doors and windows were open, its propeller damaged and the emergency beacon triggered.

The owner provided investigators a photo of the plane parked inside the hangar the previous day, saying he had not given anyone permission to operate the plane, which is valued at more than $20,000. He also claimed there was approximately $2,500 in damage.

Mary Sue Phillips booking photo posted in Iron County, Utah, March 5, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News / Cedar City News

Investigators found damage consistent with the owner’s claims, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of Phillips’ arrest.

Technicians processing the scene found several fingerprints located on the windows of the plane along with unusual tire impressions that appeared to be left by a small passenger car located next to where the plane became disabled and abandoned.

Meanwhile, detectives received information the defendant, going by the name of “Susie Dodd,” was allegedly overheard “talking about flying a plane in the Beryl Valley,” the statement said.

Detectives learned Phillips was seen driving a Ford Focus with tires that matched the impressions left at the scene. A witness provided police with the license plate number of the vehicle, which was registered to a man Phillips was seen traveling with.

A second witness told detectives Phillips “started bragging about flying a plane in Beryl,” but when the witness asked Phillips if she had a pilot’s license, the male she was traveling with became visibly upset and abruptly ended the conversation, according to the statement.

The witness didn’t think much of the conversation until they heard about the aircraft that was allegedly taken and damaged.

Investigators later located a driver’s license that listed the last name of “Phillips” and matched two of the fingerprints taken at the scene to the defendant. A warrant was issued last March for the Phillips’ arrest.

Officers responded to a residence where Phillips was staying and noticed a white Ford Focus parked near the home. She was arrested and transported to Iron County Jail, where she remained for the next six months until her release Sept. 25 wearing an ankle monitor. She was arrested one month later for failing to appear for a review hearing

Phillips entered a guilty plea on Nov. 20 and was released from jail while awaiting sentencing on Jan. 7.

However, she filed a motion Dec. 20 to withdraw her guilty plea, then failed to appear for two court appearances.

Adult Probation and Parole filed a report with the court Dec. 28 saying, “It is our belief she took her plea just to be released without the intentions of following through with the PSI (pre-sentence investigation) process.”

Phillips had told AP&P she intended to withdraw her guilty plea and hire outside counsel, which is when the agency requested a “no bail” warrant stating that Phillips “should be incarcerated until her new sentencing date.”

A $10,000 cash-only bail warrant for Phillips’ arrest was granted by the court Jan. 15.

Phillips is scheduled to appear in 5th District Court in Cedar City for a warrant review hearing Thursday at 3 p.m. and remains in custody as this report publishes.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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