Crime & Courts

Man found guilty of attempted murder in AT&T store shooting

After 440 days, Julie Dombo finally could rest Monday, knowing that the man who shot and nearly killed her had received justice.

James Michael Phillips was found guilty of all nine counts against him on Monday, including attempted first-degree murder for shooting Dombo. She was shot while Phillips was trying to rob an AT&T store in Derby in August 2015.

Phillips also was found guilty of attempted second-degree murder instead of attempted capital murder for shooting at Derby police officer Larry Hampton.

John and Julie Dombo said they were disappointed by the lesser charge for shooting at Hampton but happy that Phillips received guilty verdicts on the other charges.

“That man altered my life forever,” Julie Dombo said. “He put me in prison for life.” Dombo’s hands and feet had to be amputated after the shooting.

The Sedgwick County jury deliberated nearly all day Monday before reaching a verdict shortly before 5 p.m.

As the day came to an end, Julie Dombo – who testified during the trial – said she was worried that there would be no decision.

“Totally bummed,” she wrote at 4:36 p.m. via text message. “Still waiting for jury. Will now have to wait until tomorrow to go home.”

Less than 10 minutes later, the bailiff announced that a verdict had been reached.

As the judge started reading the verdicts, John Dombo held his wife’s right arm, and her sister, Linda, held her left arm.

“We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of attempted murder in the second degree,” the judge said as he read the first charge. Dombo blinked and lifted her eyebrows just a bit but, as instructed by the judge, did not respond.

And then the judge read the guilty verdict for attempted murder in the first degree for shooting Julie Dombo.

“I just felt like a burden was lifted off my shoulders,” Julie Dombo said afterward.

A woman who identified herself as a family member of Phillips’ dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. Phillips’ family members would not comment.

“It’s been a really long, stressful day just waiting, and with each hour you get more and more worried,” Julie Dombo said after the verdicts were read. “What are they talking about? Why is it taking so long?

“It always seemed to me a very fast, cut-and-dried case.”

After court was dismissed, Matt Dwyer, one of the lead prosecutors in the case, gave Julie Dombo a hug.

Phillips, 27, acted as his own attorney during the trial. The end of the trial, when Phillips defended himself, was especially hard, Julie Dombo said.

“He said if it was murder he would’ve pumped another … bullet in my head when he saw me wiggling and moaning on the floor,” Julie Dombo wrote in a text message Saturday.

The verdict gave the family some peace, they said, as they try to focus on her recovery and the joys and victories of the life Dombo nearly lost: surviving copious blood loss and the amputation of her hands and feet. Getting off her ventilator. Rehabilitation and learning to walk. Brushing her teeth and putting on her own makeup. Finishing a 2-mile walk-race.

And, most recently, figuring out how take the top off a pickle jar.

And there are still many obstacles ahead. She will have to get the metal plate in her arm removed and receive a bone graft.

And once it’s done, she’ll need to go through the painful process of getting her prosthetic fitted again.

The Dombos have learned that Blue Cross Blue Shield has, in other states, sometimes approved the prosthetic arms that the company says it will not approve in Kansas, based on the language in their contract.

Sentencing for Phillips is set for Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. in the same courtroom.

“He’s got to be in prison for life to make it even,” Julie Dombo said.

Oliver Morrison: 316-268-6499, @ORMorrison

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