Man sentenced in killing of pregnant mother, toddler

William David Phillips told jurors he heard voices telling him to crash into pedestrians in Jefferson City.
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 8:48 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2022 at 11:26 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - William David Phillips was sentenced for the murder of a pregnant mother and her 2-year-old son Thursday, according to court documents obtained by WVLT News.

Phillips was found guilty on all six indictment charges, including four reckless homicide charges, one reckless endangerment charge and one felony reckless endangerment charge, the judge announced.

The incident happened in Jefferson City in June 2019. According to an incident report from police, Phillips was driving on Chucky Pike when he heard a voice telling him to “kill the meth addicts.” Phillips then drove into the mother, Sierra Cahoon, and her child while driving 86 mph down Main Street because he thought there was meth in the child’s stroller, the report said.

Phillips also drove at another man, Tillman Gunter, the report stated, but Gunter was only injured. Phillips then crashed into a building, where he injured an employee inside, according to the report.

During the trial, prosecutors questioned Gunter, who said he believed Phillips intentionally struck him. Prosecutors also looked into alcohol and drug abuse, and investigators said they found a note in Phillips’ home that read “grateful for six days sober.” They also said that after Phillips was arrested, he told investigators that he had left an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and said that the government told him “to hurt those people.”

The toxicology report ordered for Phillips indicated no alcohol was in his system. He tested positive for an antidepressant and an antianxiety medication, both prescribed. Phillips also tested positive for THC.

While reviewing body camera footage, Phillips was seen telling officers that “something snapped” in him, causing him to crash his car.

During the third day of the trial, a doctor testified, saying Phillips’ mental illness meant he “was not capable of premeditated crime.” In response, the prosecution said that inconsistencies with Phillips’ police statements meant he could make sound decisions.

Closing arguments concluded just after 3:00 p.m. on Friday. The jury received instruction and left to begin deliberations to determine whether Phillips had the intent to kill and/or harm the victims.

Phillips was originally charged with three counts of first degree murder and two counts of attempted first degree murder. WVLT News reached out to officials for clarification on the original charges versus the ones the jury found him guilty on. A spokesperson for the court said the murder charges were reduced to reckless homicide.

Phillips was sentenced to 15 years, 11 months and 28 days in prison.

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