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Pamela Phillips, ex-Aspen socialite, convicted in car-bomb death of her ex-husband

Aspen socialites and crime aren't usually synonymous -- but two recent high-profile cases are exceptions.

We recently reported about the shocking murder of Nancy Pfister, whose parents founded the Buttermilk ski area. And now, Pamela Phillips, a high roller who called Aspen home as recently as 2008, has been convicted in Arizona of hiring a man to kill her ex-husband, Gary Triano, using a car bomb.

Continue for photos, videos and the lurid details.

A good outline of the saga is offered in a 2010 piece by True Crime Report, a Westwordsister blog -- and it begins with a literal bang.

Back in 1996, after finishing a round of golf at a Tucson country club, Triano, described as a wealthy businessman, hopped in his Lincoln, presumably not knowing that friends were waiting to throw him a surprise birthday party. But he never made it to the festivities. A remote control pipe bomb had been placed in his ride, and it exploded with deadly force.

Gary Triano's car after the explosion.
Gary Triano's car after the explosion.

Afterward, TCR notes that there was no shortage of suspects, since Triano "had engaged in a number of shady deals" and "lawsuits had begun to accumulate." And then there was Phillips, who was the beneficiary of a $2 million life insurance policy Triano had taken out for his kids even though the couple had separated three years before.

A decade passed without an arrest. But then Ronald Young was busted in Florida on a weapons charge that soon mushroomed into much more serious allegations.

Young had reportedly had a relationship with Phillips in Aspen some time earlier -- and tapes featuring conversations between the two of them implicated both in the Triano killing.

The gist: Phillips had allegedly pledged to give Young $400,000 if he eliminated Triano. After he did so, however, she seems to have welshed on the payout -- although she insisted on the tapes that she was merely afraid the cops would become suspicious if she withdrew so much cash from her bank account all at once.

Chats between Phillips and Young touched on FedEx drops and ATM withdrawals, and some dough appears to have been funneled to Young via real estate and Internet companies affiliated with Phillips. But he still insisted that she had shorted him more than $200,000, and he wasn't happy about it.

An affidavit quoted him as saying, "You're gonna be in a women's prison for murder."

On the surface, this information would seem to have been more than enough to justify an indictment. Yet Young wasn't arrested until 2008, when he was in California.

As for Phillips, she got out while the getting was good. Police are said to have been poised to fit her with cuffs, too -- but by the time they made her move, she'd split from Aspen in favor of Italy.

Continue for more about the conviction of former Aspen socialite Pamela Phillips, including more photos and two videos.

 

She managed to elude authorities for a year or more. But in December 2009, she was arrested on an international warrant served at a hotel in Austria.

Not that she willingly returned to American soil. She was still fighting extradition when Young went on trial for murder and conspiracy in early 2010. The Aspen Daily News reports that he's currently serving two life sentences for the crime.

Eventually, Phillips wound up back in Tucson, and while she managed to put off a judgement day (at one point, a judge ruled that she was mentally unfit for trail), she eventually wound up in an Arizona courtroom.

Her defense attorneys worked hard to suggest that others had a greater motive for bumping off Triano. But a jury eventually sided with prosecutors.

Phillips, who's now 56, is scheduled for sentencing on May 22. She could get 25 years to life.

Here's a larger look at Phillips's mug shot, followed by a brief 7News piece showing Phillips hearing the verdict and a 2009 Dateline segment on the crime.

Pamela Phillips.
Pamela Phillips.

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Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa March 11: "Nancy Pfister: Socialite's murder, bust of ex-doctor and wife continue to shake Aspen."


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