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.

Later, her personal motivations in the love triangle became even murkier. By the summer of 1996 she was spending a considerable amount of time in Lamar and away from Haswell, staying nights at Mathews's house on West Park Street. "She also started handling Toby's money," recalls Orie. But she still maintained close ties with Ron Phillips. On September 1, 1996, the two purchased another insurance policy on Ron's life. Written through Prudential, the policy had a face value of $300,000. Again, Cynthia was the primary beneficiary.

The following month, Cynthia finally seemed to make up her mind. Despite what would appear to be a firm financial commitment to her marriage, in October 1996 she and Toby took her daughters and left Lamar, Haswell and Ron Phillips behind. They headed south, to a small oil town in central Texas called Corsicana, where Toby's grandmother lived.

By all appearances, they settled quickly into domesticity, moving into a modular home together. Toby found a job at the local K-Mart distribution center. To further secure their young relationship, Toby purchased a $100,000 life-insurance policy, listing Cynthia as the primary beneficiary.

Spring 1998--Corsicana, Texas
On April 14, just before midnight, Corsicana police responded to reports of a rapid burst of gunfire near a mobile-home park on the north side of town. When they arrived, they discovered the body of a 29-year-old man, lying partially in the street behind his still-running car. Toby Mathews was bleeding to death.

In a city of less than 20,000 residents, murders are not a common occurrence; Corsicana sees only about two or three a year. As a new resident, Mathews hadn't had time to develop a broad group of acquaintances, so police there quickly narrowed the list of suspects to his tight circle of companions. Within two weeks, they had a confession.

An old family friend of the Naus in Kinsley, Richard Boyd had moved to Corsicana in the fall of 1997, settling in with Toby, Cynthia and the girls. As often seemed to be the case with Cynthia, however, the relationship progressed past simple friendship. In later interviews with police, Boyd confessed that, unbeknownst to Toby, he'd begun having an affair with Cynthia.

In addition to the fact that, statistically, most murder victims know their killers, circumstantial evidence in Toby's death pointed directly to his live-in companions. Police at the crime scene had discovered seven nine-millimeter Winchester shell casings around Mathews's body. A subsequent search of the home he shared with Boyd and Cynthia found live rounds of the same size and make.

The evidence was compelling, and after a series of interviews, Boyd confessed to the crime. But, he added, he didn't do it alone.

In fact, Boyd informed police, it was Cynthia who had fired the first shots into Toby Mathews that spring night. Then, scared and hyped, he had pulled the gun from her hands and fired the remaining bullets into the body to make sure that Toby was dead. He and Cynthia then drove home.

But Phillips proved to be a tougher suspect than her lover. Despite Boyd's recollections, in several interviews with Corsicana police earlier this year, she adamantly denied having any part in the crime. She also denied it during a lie-detector test, although not very convincingly. "She didn't just flunk it; she bombed it," recalls Detective Bertha Zeidel, who is heading the investigation into Mathews's murder.

Additionally, the one piece of evidence that could definitively tie her to the crime--the handgun used in Toby's murder--has never been recovered. "We've looked high and low for it," says Zeidel. "We've had all kinds of people looking for it."

"She is our only other suspect," says exasperated Navarro County district attorney Patrick Bachelor. "If we could find the weapon, we'd have her." Until then, he says, his hands are tied: While Boyd's confession may be helpful, Bachelor explains that "to bring charges in the state of Texas, you must have more than an accomplice's testimony as evidence."

Thus, even though Texas law-enforcement officers have Boyd's confession, a solid motive (Cynthia's new lover and the six-figure life-insurance policy), the failed polygraph and the matching bullets, Phillips has eluded formal charges in the murder. "It's frustrating," says Zeidel. "It's real frustrating."

Yet the Texas murder investigation turned out to be just the beginning of the police's interest in Cynthia Phillips. As the Corsicana police department began piecing together the events leading up to Toby's murder, word of his death spread quickly back to Colorado.

And as the news scattered from friends to relatives and, eventually, to the police, it soon become apparent that Toby Mathews wasn't the only man Cynthia might have wanted dead. Her trail led backward, from Mathews to Ron Phillips--and perhaps even to Les Konrade. It appeared to have its beginnings in Colorado.

Summer 1995--Lamar, Colorado
Toby Mathews had begun working as a bouncer at Opal's Pub several months before he ever laid eyes on Cynthia Phillips at the family auto shop. Early on in his new job, he had met another bouncer, Michael Billy Slaughter. The two young men soon became good friends, eventually moving into a Lamar house together.

Big and bearded with long brown hair, Slaughter looked tough--"like a biker," according to one friend. His nickname was "Bear." Yet those who know him insist that that's just his exterior. "He wanted everybody to think he was rough, but he'd do just about anything for you," recalls Orie Mathews.

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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.