INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the shooting death of his wife.
Jason Phipps had faced a murder charge in his wife Jill's death in July 2020, but last month, a Marion County judge found Phipps guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter in his wife's death.
Phipps was also sentenced to two years of probation.
Phipps testified at his own bench trial. Family and friends said Jill Phipps’ death was the fatal end to a history of domestic violence.
Jill called 911 from her east Indianapolis home around 4:30 a.m. on July 8, 2020, shortly before she died. She and her husband had apparently both been drinking whiskey and vodka all night.
Jason testified during his murder trial that he was holding a shotgun under his chin, planning to kill himself, when Jill yanked the barrel down, causing the shotgun to fire and hit Jill in the side.
He testified that he didn’t remember much after that, but trial evidence indicates he left the house for 45 minutes and made no effort to help his wife after she was shot.
Investigators charged Jason with murder, alleging the shooting was the violent end to an argument over Jill not wanting Jason to have guns.
Jason allegedly wanted Jill to take him downtown to get his pistol, a separate weapon that had been seized by police just two weeks before in another drunken incident at the house on Father’s Day.
In that incident, a Metro police officer testified that he responded to a call to the house on June 21, 2020, to find Jason in his underwear chasing Jill in the front yard. Jill appeared to have redness on her lip and neck.
Jill brought the officer a pistol from inside the house and said she wanted her husband to get help.
Jason was taken into immediate detention and underwent a mental health evaluation at Eskenazi Hospital. But the officer said Jill was not forthcoming about what really happened. Jason was never charged with any crime, and the red flag law was never used to seize other weapons in the home.
Several of Jill’s family and friends attended the trial in the fourth-floor courtroom of the newly opened Criminal Justice Campus.
"I just have to be here for her, to fight against him for her one last time to make sure that justice prevails,” said Stacy Welborn, a lifelong friend of Jill’s.
Jill's teenage daughters were in the house when their mom was shot.
Now-17-year-old Kennedy Myers came to the aid of her mother. She told police she took the shotgun away from Jason and hid it under a bed until Jason left the house.
Myers said her mother hid a history of Jason's domestic violence against the entire family. Myers said Jason once ripped out a chunk of her hair from her scalp.
"He's threatened to kill her,” said Myers. “He's threatened to kill me. He's threatened to kill anybody. And he said he didn't care about going to prison. I didn't believe that he would kill himself and that he would hurt someone else to get what he wanted."
Family and friends say they had suspicions in recent years, but never realized the seriousness of the family problems until it was too late.
"I can make myself crazy going back playing the what-if game,” said Jennifer Chaffin, Jill’s older sister. “What if we had done things differently or tried more? But I also know that you can't help someone that won't accept it, and that is a horrible, horrible place to be in."