Lawyer seeks mercy for Ronald Phillips, Akron man who raped, killed girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A death row inmate who raped and killed his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter was sexually, physically and verbally abused during his childhood, according to attorneys asking the Ohio Parole Board to spare him before next month's execution.

No judge or jury ever heard the full story of the abuse suffered by Ronald Phillips, which included being repeatedly raped and beaten by his late father, according to a document filed with the board ahead of the clemency hearing that began Wednesday morning.

"Ronald Phillips is not and was not a monster," his attorneys said in the filing. "Ronald Phillips instead was a 19-year-old high school student, who had experienced nothing but violence, chaos, and abuse, and who learned through those life experiences that violence and abuse were the norm."

Phillips, 40, is scheduled to die Nov. 14 for raping and killing Sheila Marie Evans in Akron in 1993 after a long period of frequently abusing her.

If his execution proceeds, Phillips would be the first person to die under the state's new execution procedures. That policy allows Ohio to continue to use the sedative pentobarbital but with the option of buying it from a specialty pharmacy that produces non-FDA-regulated batches of medicine for specific patients.

If that option isn't available, the state can move to a never-tried method of two other drugs -- the sedative midazolam and the opiate hydromorphone -- injected intravenously.

The warden at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, which houses death row, will determine by Nov. 1 whether the state has a usable supply of pentobarbital.

A federal judge is reviewing Ohio's new method and legal challenges are expected.

The state says Phillips long denied suffering the type of abuse he now alleges. Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh says Phillips is only raising it now with his execution imminent. She urged the board to reject the claim.

"It is curious that the disclosures have been made now, on the eve of his execution and after his father's death," Walsh said in a response to Phillips' clemency plea, also filed with the parole board.

Phillips' attorneys say he was only able to reveal the abuse recently to them and to two psychologists.

The board will recommend for or against mercy next week. Gov. John Kasich has the final say.

Phillips' father, Williams Phillips Sr., died in 2009. His mother, Donna Phillips, declined to discuss the allegations against her late husband, who she acknowledged could be "stern."

"He's not here to defend himself and I don't believe it should be anything said about that," she said in a phone interview.

She said her son is sorry for what happened.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus .

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