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On October 29, 2016, at approximately 9:45 p.m. on rural FM road 49 in Western Upshur County, the Defendant, Randell Jay Phillips, W/M, DOB: 01/17/1975, from Big Sandy, drove his 2006 Chevrolet Avalanche 256 feet off the roadway into a tree. His two year old grandson, Skylar Rabourn, was killed as a result. The Defendant was highly intoxicated. Blood evidence showed that even 31/2 hours after the crash his blood alcohol level was still two times the legal limit. Skylar was trapped under the front dash in the passenger floorboard and died at the scene.
This Defendant would normally have been charged with Intoxication Manslaughter which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. However, this Defendant had two prior Driving While Intoxicated convictions as misdemeanors from Gregg County, Texas, and we sought a murder indictment under the felony murder statute in Texas. It is a rare but unique aspect of Texas Law where if a Defendant is in the commission of a felony (in this case felony driving while intoxicated) and they commit an act clearly dangerous to human life and that causes the death of another individual they may be charged with murder. The evidence showed that this Defendant, the biological grandfather of this two year old boy, placed him, unrestrained, in the front seat of his avalanche and drove head on into a tree while intoxicated.
This was a very difficult case due to the age of Skylar and because the mother of the child, while she knew her father needed to be punished, wished and hoped for a much lesser sentence for her father as she believed he did not mean to cause her son’s death.
This sentence ensures the very strong likelihood that the Defendant will never leave prison alive. He must serve at least 25 years in prison day for day. The maximum sentence would have been 30 years day for day. Phillips waived his right to appeal.
The State was represented by District Attorney, Billy W. Byrd, and Assistant District Attorney, Catherine McQueen. The Defendant was represented by Longview Attorney, Scott Novy. This case was set for jury trial to begin tomorrow morning. Judge Lauren Parish presided over all proceedings.