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Prosecutors Detail Murder Charges Against Man in 1988 Cold Case

By Erin Meyer | December 13, 2013 5:13pm
 Police charged Prentice Phillips, 48, with a 1988 murder of an 82-year-old woman.
Police charged Prentice Phillips, 48, with a 1988 murder of an 82-year-old woman.
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Chicago Police Department

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A petite, elderly woman, Margaret Blair weighed a mere 80 pounds when a man kicked in the door of her Rogers Park home, raped her and robbed her.

Injured in the attack, the 82-year-old woman died in a hospital four days later, prosecutors said. That was in 1988, and for 25 years police couldn't figure out who was responsible for the attack.

But on Thursday, with new evidence at their disposal, police fingered Prentice Phillips, 48, after recovered DNA evidence was tested and turned out to be a match.

Prosecutors said the Evanston man — already jailed on unrelated accusations that he tried to rape a handicapped person — allegedly left his semen at the scene. But, in 1988, the Illinois State Crime Lab did not have the ability to test DNA. 

Assistant State's Attorney Patrick Morley alleged Friday that Phillips knocked on the basement window of Blair's apartment in the 7200 block of North Sheridan Road in the early morning hours of July 11, 1988.

Using a "ruse of warning her that there was a prowler in the area," Phillips asked her to open her door, Morley said. When the woman refused, Phillips kicked it in.

The door hit Blair in the face, Morley said. Phillips then jumped on top of her and pressed his hand against her mouth.

Phillips sexually assaulted the woman causing multiple injuries, including a broken rib, Morley said. He took money from the woman's purse and ran.

Phillips has pending case against him for attempted criminal sexual assault, aggravated battery of a physically handicapped person and stalking, prosecutors said. He also has previous convictions for possession of a controlled substance, burglary and attempted burglary and aggravated battery to a police officer. 

Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr. ordered Phillips held without bail Friday.