The motive for a 29-year-old man killing his mother and stepfather at a Limestone County home hasn't been announced by authorities, but the man did have previous legal troubles.
A woman who claims she was raped four years ago by Robert Earl Gilchrist III said she was shocked to learn authorities believe he killed his mother, 52-year-old Jamie Lynn Phillips, and stepfather, 48-year-old Jerry Thomas Phillips, before killing himself. She reached out to The News Courier after reading about the murders on the newspaper's website.
The woman, who is now a college student, was only 16 when the rape occurred in Collierville, a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee. The News Courier is withholding the woman's name because she was a minor when the rape occurred.
She said her mother placed an ad on Craigslist seeking a roommate, and Gilchrist responded. At the time, he was free on bond after being arrested on theft and identity theft charges in Jackson, Tennessee.
In that case, Gilchrist was accused of posing as a Jackson man to receive a credit card and rack up more than $9,000 in charges. A report by The Jackson Sun said the theft victim left his home in the care of his daughter, and she allowed Gilchrist to say there. When the victim returned from an overseas trip, he found a bill stating he owed $9,082 in credit card debt.
The Jackson Sun article said Gilchrist admitted to taking the credit card, which was found in his possession. The article said he also admitted to stealing guns valued at $1,050 from the residence.
The rape victim described Gilchrist as a predator who took advantage of her interest in writing.
“He claimed to be a writer,” she said.
The two became involved in a sexual relationship, but the woman said it evolved into sexual battery. Her parents were divorced, and her father was suspicious of Gilchrist. The woman eventually told her father about what had been happening, and he filed a police report.
Gilchrist was charged with statutory rape in July 2015. When he went to trial, the woman testified against him.
Gilchrist pleaded guilty to statutory rape and was sentenced in July 2017 to six years of probation, to be served consecutive to his sentence on the theft. He was required to undergo regular drug screens, perform 300 hours of community service and register as a sex offender.
According to the Tennessee sex offender database, Gilchrist last reported to his probation officer on March 25. The database also lists him as “homeless.”
Gilchrist had also been ordered to have no contact with the victim. He ignored the order.
“After being released earlier in 2019, he came looking for me to get me to recant my statement regarding the statutory rape charges,” the woman said. “I was out of town, and contact was never made. However, the incident was traumatic for me.”
The woman said the fact the man who victimized her is believed to have killed his mother and stepfather was “very shocking” to her. She added her heart goes out to the “victims of all his crimes, but especially his parents.”
“I didn’t realize how much what happened still weighed on me until I found out about his death,” she said. “It’s heart-wrenching to me that anyone else had to be hurt, but I find it a relief that Mr. Gilchrist can never hurt anyone else ever again.”
Tragedy on Black Road
It's not clear how long Gilchrist had been living at the home in the 22000 block of Black Road before the murder-suicide occurred. A concerned relative called the Limestone County Sheriff's Office earlier this week to report she had not talked to the Phillipses for some time.
The woman had called previously and spoken to Gilchrist, who told her the Philipses did not wish to speak to her.
A deputy conducting a welfare check discovered a body in an exterior shed behind the house, and another in a garage. Deputy and public information officer Stephen Young said investigators believe Gilchrist shot himself to death after the deputy arrived at the home.
Investigators have not said when the couple was killed or how. Young said the cause of death would be determined by autopsies.
Jerry Phillips, also known as Tommy Phillips, previously worked at Lowe's and was an over-the-road truck driver for Landstar at the time of his death. According to his Facebook page, he was from Bolivar, Tennessee, while Jamie Lynn Phillips' profile said she hailed from Savannah, Georgia.
Funeral arrangements had not been announced as of Friday.