Love on the Rocks

They lived -- and some of them died -- in small towns on the plains of Colorado, Texas and Kansas. They had one woman in common.

January 1993--Kiowa and Prowers counties, southeastern Colorado
Although Ron and Cynthia Phillips and their four children continued to live in Kinsley, Ron, a native of Kiowa County, had expressed an interest in returning to the Eads area. In late 1992 he heard that Leonard Price, the owner of a small slaughterhouse and packing business a couple dozen miles east of Eads, was interested in retiring. The Phillipses agreed to purchase both L&M Processing and Price's home along Route 96; Price carried the financing. In early January 1993 the Phillips family packed up and moved to Haswell.

Residents say the couple was friendly and seemed happy. Yet even by the small-town standards that Cynthia had grown up with and become accustomed to, Haswell was extraordinarily tiny, and acquaintances say that she soon began returning to Kinsley on the weekends after spending the week working in the packing plant.

That pattern changed one day in March 1995, when Cynthia's car broke down in Lamar and she took it into a local garage owned and operated by the Mathews family. One of the family members on duty that day was Toby. The two began talking. Toby told Cynthia he also worked as a bouncer at a nearby bar called Opal's Pub; the next night, she showed up there.

While Toby had moved around quite a bit in his 26 years--he'd grown up in Grand Junction and Lamar and graduated from high school in Eastland, Texas--he finally seemed ready to settle down for a while in Lamar. He had begun working for his father, Orie, in the family garage, mainly as a tow-truck driver, sometimes as an auto mechanic. Most of his time off--and there was a lot of it--was spent hunting and fishing. "Toby didn't take to responsibility real well--just a grown-up man who was still a kid," says his stepmother.

Cynthia seemed to like him, though, and she soon became a regular at Opal's, making the one-hour drive down from Haswell several times a week. Often she'd arrive late in the afternoon and stay all the way through closing, at 2 a.m.

She left the impression of someone intent on leaving an impression. "She seemed like she was always acting--always on stage," recalls one longtime regular. "If she wasn't getting a lot of attention, she'd act drunk. If you met her, the first thing you'd think is, 'Poor little thing. She needs protection.'"

Toby's personality fit hers like a puzzle piece. A tall, dark-bearded and gregarious man who wasn't shy about taking the karaoke microphone or hitting the dance floor, he was well-known and well-liked in Lamar. He also had a soft spot for vulnerable women, friends say, and it wasn't long before Cynthia and Toby became lovers.

While Toby's feelings for his new girlfriend seemed genuine, her intentions were less clear--and considerably edgier. Once, after she'd already begun her affair with Toby, Cynthia brought Ron into Opal's to celebrate their wedding anniversary--while Toby was bartending. "She lived a dangerous life, and she seemed to enjoy it," says the longtime patron, who was there that evening.

Like the Konrades, who took a dim view of their son's relationship with Cynthia, the Mathews family also saw Phillips in a darker light than Toby did. The gulf in perception soon created a deep rift. "Him and I had a kind of falling-out, and it was because of her," says Orie, Toby's father. "Like I told him, 'I can't make up your mind for you. But someday you're going to wake up and smell the roses.'"

As Toby and Cindy grew closer--and as Orie's suspicions that his son was being used by his new girlfriend grew--the breakdown in the Mathews family intensified. Orie Mathews recalls being perplexed and angered by Cynthia's vague and seemingly shifting allegiances.

"She was living part-time with Ron up in Haswell and part-time with Toby," he recalls. "One day I was talking with a banker friend of mine who said that she was getting ready to buy a new home in Haswell. I said, 'What the hell! She's supposed to be fixing to move in with Toby.'

"I brought it up with him," Orie continues. "I said, 'I think she's taking you for the biggest ride of your life.' And it wasn't just me. All of his friends was telling him the same thing. But I don't think he wanted to hear it."

Indeed, according to people who knew the couple, Toby doted on Cynthia, jumping at each opportunity to make her happy. One friend recalls that at one point she told him she wanted a gun. He purchased a nine-millimeter handgun, which they took target shooting, the friend says.

"Toby didn't really work toward anything or at anything," concludes his stepmother. "Except Cindy. It wasn't like he loved her; it was like he worshiped her."

Yet Cynthia continued to live a double life, at least as evidenced by the financial trail she left. In May 1995, for instance, a couple of months after she began hanging out at Opal's Pub and became involved with Toby Mathews, she and Ron Phillips purchased a new life-insurance policy on Ron from State Farm Insurance Company. The policy, with a face value of $200,000, had a double-indemnity clause in the case of an accidental death. Cynthia was named as the primary beneficiary.

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Toby dated my mother back in 1993 when I was in the 5th grade. He was nice to me & my brother. He took us to karate to see if we would like it. His dad & step mom took all of us to six flags when we first met them. Toby didn't deserve to die that way. He was a GREAT MAN & he will be sorely missed!!


After almost 16 years, its feels almost like a bad dream, rather than reality. I'm not exactly sure what tripped my memory wire about this. Just been thinking about it lately. I remember when Toby was killed, and the boys in our family immediately dropped everything to rush to Corsicana in support of our cousin Toby.

As we pulled up to the funeral home, the scene was almost surreal. As we left the funeral services, a a smug, seemingly put-out smallish framed man waited impatiently in a older model Camaro. That man was Richard Boyd. As Cynthia Phillips was entering the passenger side, music blaring, with smoke billowing out of the car. My brothers and I barely had time to get out of the way in the gravel parking lot before Boyd slammed on the gas pedal, sending gravel flying in every direction.

When we finally arrived at Toby's home, my brothers, father, grandfather and I immediately looked at each other. Hardly a word was spoken. We just knew. I hadn't seen Toby's dad, my Uncle Orie in years. Immediately we all hugged as he just looked hollow, disgusted in anger.

As we made our way inside, there was Cynthia. She was crying, sobbing, jittering about uncontrollably. At the time, I thought: "My God! What a scene she is making. Quite the spectacle of herself".. After reading this story, and her apparent penchant for the theatrical, I guess it was to her character.

It was a almost a full four years later that Phillips was sentenced: 60 years for murder. And that was 12 years ago. I have no idea if she is still serving, or if her sentence was shortened. I'm afraid to look. It will make me visibly ill to know the truth.

What I do know is that without the help of the other murdrers, and and attempted others, she probably would have never been caught. Save for one extremely weak Richard Boyd, she may have been still wreaking her brand of promiscuous havoc upon our great State. Or someone else's.

It's funny, the things you remember in life. I don't remember my college graduation. My first day of school. Heck, I don't even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.

But I will never, ever forget the look on that monster's face in the parking lot of the funeral home in Corsicana that day in April, 16 years ago.

The look of smug, defiant guilt. On both of their ignorant, hillbilly faces.