Julie Dombo stood on her prosthetic limbs in court and described how a few minutes in a Derby cellphone store last summer irreparably changed her life.
Before that day she counseled middle school students. Lifted her own coffee cup to her lips. Went out alone for a morning jog.
Now she sees a wheelchair at her bedside when she awakes, she said.
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Now she has to get her husband’s help doing the little things her own hands used to manage, like driving a car, showering and styling her hair.
“My whole life has changed. I’m glad I lived,” she said. “But what kind of life is this when I have to figure out every day what to do?”
Dombo’s statements came Friday afternoon just moments before the man who shot her twice was sentenced to 31 years in prison on nine criminal counts, including her attempted first-degree murder.
A jury in October convicted James Michael Phillips, 27, of shooting Dombo during a robbery attempt at the AT&T store at 620 N. Rock Road just after it opened on Aug. 11, 2015. He was armed with a gun, handcuffs, a box of zip ties and other tools that prosecutors say he intended to use to rob the store of high-dollar smartphones that day.
He fired twice at Dombo – who had gone to the store to have her phone fixed – when she refused to go to a back room with two employees as Phillips had ordered.
After he fled the store, he also fired at a Derby police officer who was pursing him.
Doctors had to amputate portions of Dombo’s arms and legs to save her life. She spent 114 days in the hospital.
In an emotional plea, Dombo asked Sedgwick County District Court Judge Joe Kisner to order Phillips spend 34 years in prison, which is equal to the difference in their ages.
But because a provision in Kansas’ sentencing law places limits on the total amount of time a defendant can be ordered to serve in prison for most crimes, 372 months was the maximum term Phillips could receive.
“I was a human being,” Dombo told Phillips. “And you showed no remorse for me. No respect for me in what you did to me and my husband.”
Instead of firing at her chest, “he could’ve shoved me down. He could’ve hit me in the head. He could’ve shot me in the leg.”
“But he was trying to kill me,” Dombo said.
Kisner, in imposing the sentence, told Phillips he would have ordered him to serve a longer term if he could have.
“I don’t think that you’re 100 percent the devil,” Kisner said. “But what you did that day, you have to pay for. And you know that you’re the villain here.”
He later added: “No sentence that I could ever give you will even the score.”
Phillips, who represented himself at his trial, argued that a shorter sentence would be more appropriate. He said shooting Dombo was “cold” and “cruel” but contended that he didn’t intend to kill her or cause her arms and legs to be amputated.
“It’s all my fault. I shot Miss Dombo,” he said, before apologizing to her for his actions. “I don’t think that there’s anything that I can say … that would make this better for the family.”
But, he said, “I’m not someone that just needs to be locked away forever. I made a mistake. I do believe that I can be out, be in society without doing any harm.”
After the hearing was over, Dombo said she was disappointed the judge couldn’t give Phillips a 34-year sentence but was happy he doled out the maximum term allowed.
“Going into it, we knew 31 years was the top,” she said, adding: “I’ve waited for this day for a long time.”
Asked whether she accepts Phillips’ in-court apology, Dombo called it “just another excuse.”
“It means nothing to me. Nothing,” she said.
Her husband said that the sentence will give the couple some closure, but he also hopes authorities will prosecute Phillips for other store robberies he’s tied to.
“It’s our hopes … that we never, ever see him out of jail again,” John Dombo said.