A once-prominent U.S. socialite was found guilty Tuesday in the 1996 car bomb killing of her ex-husband after spending years abroad living a lavish lifestyle across Europe.
Pamela Phillips, 56, was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder after less than three days of deliberations that began last week. She faces life in prison at her May 22 sentencing hearing.
Phillips can't receive the death penalty because of her extradition from Austria, which has a treaty with the U.S. that won't allow anyone to be extradited for prosecution if they face capital punishment.
Phillips shook her head seconds after the verdict was read in Pima County Superior Court. Her attorneys said they will file an appeal.
"We have now two people who are going to be serving imprisonment for something they didn't do," defence lawyer Paul Eckerstrom told KGUN-TV, referring to Phillips and convicted hitman Ronald Young. "They're innocent."
But prosecutor Nicol Green said Phillips' head shaking after the verdict "went right along with the reasons she felt that she could do this and get away with it."
During the trial that began in February, Phillips' lawyers told jurors their client had nothing to gain from the death of businessman Gary Triano and that she was the victim of overzealous authorities who failed to follow other leads. They said Phillips was already a successful real estate broker with her own money, and suggested that Triano had numerous other enemies.
But prosecutors described Phillips as a gold digger who hired a former boyfriend to kill Triano to collect on a $2 million life insurance policy in order to maintain her extravagant taste for the good life.
It's been nearly two decades since Triano died when his car exploded as he was leaving a country club in the Tucson, Arizona, area after playing golf. Authorities said Phillips paid ex-boyfriend Ronald Young $400,000 to carry out the hit. Young was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to two life terms in prison, but jurors weren't allowed to consider his case while determining Phillips' fate.