Surveillance footage from fast-food restaurant helps police nab woman suspected of multiple vehicle burglaries

Stock image | Photo by Matt Gush/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A local woman was arrested Sunday and is facing more than 20 charges after surveillance footage from a fast-food restaurant allegedly showed the suspect purchasing food with a stolen credit card.

The arrest was set in motion shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday, when officers were dispatched to investigate a vehicle burglary that reportedly took place in the parking lot of an apartment complex on 800 East in St. George, according to charging documents filed with the court. 

The report also stated that during the burglary, a wallet was stolen from the glove compartment of the vehicle. A review of the bank records revealed that the suspect attempted to make an online purchase of more than $1,200, which was declined, the reporting party told police. 

Officers also learned the credit card was used to purchase $14 in food from McDonalds. There, the manager provided the time-stamped receipt that later corresponded with video surveillance footage showing a suspect, who officers “immediately” recognized as 30-year-old Amber Phillips, of St. George, allegedly using the stolen credit card to make the food purchase, according to the report. 

Armed with a search warrant, officers responded to the suspect’s residence, an apartment complex, where they spoke to the property manager who told police that another resident had called earlier that morning reporting their wallet was stolen from the parking lot the night before.

The manager went on to tell officers that the tenant also reported to management that more than $1,000 was charged on one of their bank cards. 

Amber Patricia Phillips, 30, of St. George, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Aug. 2, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

When officers knocked on the apartment door, Phillips “refused to answer.” A K-9 unit was called in to conduct a sniff around the exterior of the apartment unit after officers detected a marijuana smell coming from the front door. 

Officers entered the unoccupied apartment and recovered a wallet with an identification card and four credit cards belonging to the individual who called in reporting the vehicle burglary that they spoke to hours earlier. They also found another wallet containing an identification card and credit card that were taken during a vehicle burglary reported on Saturday morning, along with a receipt from Target detailing a purchase of more than $600 in merchandise, as well as $200 in receipts from various retailers.

When officers were unable to find the suspect, an “attempt to locate” was broadcast to all officers in the area, and Phillips was located at her residence early Sunday morning. 

During an interview, the suspect allegedly admitted to taking several credit cards and other items during a series of vehicle burglaries, and she also admitted to making the Target purchase of a cell phone that officers found in her possession during the arrests, according to court records.

When asked how many vehicles the suspect broke into, Phillips told officers she couldn’t remember, adding that she was “drunk and upset,” at the time. She also reportedly told officers she had stolen credit cards in her purse “that she was holding,” the officer noted, which turned out to be five credit cards that were later confiscated by police. 

Phillips was transported and booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility and was booked on 13 third-degree felony charges, including one count of possession of another’s identifying documents, 11 counts of unlawful acquisition of a finance card and one count of theft by deception. 

She also faces seven misdemeanors, including two counts of vehicle burglary and five counts of unlawful acquisition of a finance card, as well as a speeding warrant.

The arrest Sunday is not the first for Phillips. An arrest in June involved a traffic stop that took place just off of Interstate 15 near Exit 16 where Phillips was stopped for a brake light infraction.

During the stop, the trooper noticed a child sitting in the back seat. The suspect allegedly refused to give police her name or any identification, and then she pulled forward “as if to flee” and then stopped. She then took the child from the car and started walking toward the convenience store inside of a gas station, refusing the trooper’s orders to stop.

2019 stock image of Utah Highway Patrol vehicles on Interstate 15 near Exit 16 | St. George News

She turned around and got back in her vehicle, and as she did so, “she seemed to give little regard for the little boy,” who continued into the store without the suspect, who had locked herself inside of her vehicle, according to the affidavit. 

The suspect got out and went into the store as the trooper called for backup. Once additional officers arrived, they confronted the suspect inside of the store, and, according to the report, while attempting to arrest Phillips, she picked up the small boy and continued to scream and curse at officers. 

When officers attempted to free the child from the suspect’s grasp “as gently as we could,” the trooper noted, the suspect grasped the small boy by his shirt with her teeth, biting the child’s skin in the process, until officers were able to free the boy.

The suspect was led outside to an awaiting ambulance, reportedly kicking and screaming, until she was secured to a gurney and given a shot, at which point she calmed down and was loaded into the ambulance and transported to the hospital. 

Meanwhile, troopers were able to confirm the suspect’s identity through dispatch. They also determined that the young boy in the car was a 5-year-old that Phillips identified as her son, who also received medical care for a bite mark. The Department of Children and Family Services was contacted and responded to the scene, along with a family member who arrived to care for the child. 

The suspect’s vehicle was towed, and once Phillips was cleared at the hospital, she was transported to jail and multiple misdemeanor charges were filed the following day, including failing to stop at an officer’s command, two counts of assault on a peace officer, failure to disclose identity, interfering with an arresting officer and child abuse (reckless). 

That case is still pending in the courts.

The suspect remains in custody following Saturday’s arrest on $7,500 bail.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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