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.

The two got to talking--about Ron Phillips and Toby's murder, and about Cynthia Phillips's attempt to have Ron killed. Alarmed, Price contacted the Kiowa County sheriff, who immediately called Kemp. By coincidence, the following day Bear happened to phone up his old friends from Opal's Pub. When he learned about Toby's murder, he, too, called the police.

Bear told investigators about Cynthia's efforts to hire him to kill her husband--the details of the map of L&M Processing, the money she gave him. He added one more thing he thought the police ought to know: At about the same time that Cynthia was trying to convince him to murder Ron Phillips, she had also asked him to kill a man in Kansas she used to be married to named Les Konrade.

Summer 1998--Kinsley, Kansas, and Eads, Colorado
The case of Leslie Konrade's death remains open; in fact, it has never officially been designated a homicide. But to many of the 1,900 or so residents of Kinsley, the cause of Konrade's death is hardly mysterious. "We got plenty of guys here who, if they didn't show up for work one day, you wouldn't be surprised," recalls Micki Avery, a lifelong Kinsley resident who knew Konrade. "But Les was not that type of person. If he was gone, it was for a reason.

"Even before his body was found, people were saying, 'I bet she did it,'" adds Avery, who works at one of the two papers in town, the Graphic. "And then, when we heard about this deal down in Texas, they said, 'You ought to write a great big headline: I Told You So!'"

Hungry for answers, Konrade's sister has gathered every detail she could about her brother's death and gone over them again and again. Many of them, in retrospect, seem sinister. To Beverly Jensen and the rest of the Konrades, Les's death was no accident.

Who, for example, was the woman who had called Les at the bar just before he disappeared from the VFW? Hadn't Cynthia been seen in town a day or so before Les's disappearance? Why was he seen leaving the hall in someone else's car?

The place where Les's body was eventually discovered troubles Jensen, too. "He was scared to death of water," she recalls. "And it was flooding out there. He'd never have gone out there. He couldn't swim."

Some clues have begun to take on a familiar cast. One source close to the investigation says that in the winter of 1995, between Phillips's fizzled attempt to have her husband murdered and the time of Konrade's disappearance, Konrade apparently took out a second life-insurance policy, listing Cynthia and their daughters as beneficiaries. (Jensen says Konrade already had a $40,000 life-insurance policy that was to go to his children in the case of his death.) The source adds that there is a good chance the policy may have been forged--a possible explanation as well for the large policies Ron Phillips supposedly bought just before Cynthia left him.

Cynthia Phillips has cropped up in the investigation into Konrade's death in more direct ways as well. Bruce Mellor was one of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents assigned to look for Les Konrade. On the morning of September 13, 1996, he recalls, he and a handful of sheriff's deputies "just started walking up Coon Creek. We didn't know exactly where to look. But we'd received some information that he might be found in some water."

Later that day, after Konrade's body had been recovered, Mellor returned to his Great Bend office. There was a letter waiting for him. The letter, which was unsigned, provided precise--and extraordinarily accurate--details of where Konrade's body could be found. When Mellor had the paper dusted for fingerprints, the crime lab got a hit: The fingerprints on the letter belonged to Cynthia Phillips.

"Apparently she realized that she couldn't collect a life-insurance policy if there was no body," hypothesizes Jensen.

As new evidence continues to emerge, Jensen has been making the long drive to Eads, Colorado, looking for answers. That is where, in three months, Cynthia Phillips is scheduled to go on trial in Kiowa County District Court for planning to murder Ron Phillips.

On May 25, not long after Bear Slaughter's call to the Kiowa County sheriff's department, Cynthia was arrested in Corsicana, Texas, and brought to Eads. A month later she was charged with conspiracy and criminal solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Bear was promised immunity in exchange for his testimony.

At around the same time, in Corsicana, Richard Boyd was charged with capital murder in the April shooting death of Toby Mathews. Navarro County DA Bachelor says that if the case goes to trial, it will probably be sometime early next year. Meanwhile, law-enforcement officers there say they hope that Cynthia Phillips will make the one misstep that will give them enough reason to charge her with murdering Toby Mathews for his life-insurance policy.

"We're waiting for the Colorado trial to see what happens," says Detective Zeidel. "I hope we get lucky and she breaks down and confesses. But realistically, I don't think that will happen. She's very bullheaded."

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1 comments
boogiemandj
boogiemandj

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.




 
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