Prosecutors: Anchorage cold case murder started with gunfire, ended in fatal vehicle collision

Darin Lee Jones, in a photo publicized in 2017 by Anchorage police while Jones was wanted for an alleged probation violation. (Anchorage Police Department)

Two Anchorage men have been charged for a 2017 murder, after one of them allegedly shot into a parked vehicle, causing its driver to speed off and hit a woman, killing her.

That’s according to court documents in the case against Darin Lee Jones, 54, and Shawn Michael Phillips, 52. A grand jury on Friday handed up indictments against Jones for first-degree murder and attempted murder, and against both Jones and Phillips for second-degree murder, manslaughter, robbery, assault and weapons misconduct.

State prosecutors say Jones and Phillips killed Patricia Phelps, 48, in Anchorage’s Spenard neighborhood. But a bail memorandum filed in the case suggests Phelps was not the intended target.

It took years for detectives to piece together the story. The bail memo describes what they think happened.

At the time of the 2017 murder, Jones was on parole for a previous murder conviction. He had walked away from Akeela House, a residential substance abuse treatment facility, without permission “after his roommate was stabbed,” according to the bail memo. Jones was under investigation for the stabbing.

That was August 3, 2017. Six days later, an unnamed witness heard Jones tell Phillips in a phone conversation that “he would take care of it.” Jones put on a bulletproof vest, got on his red Harley Davidson motorcycle and drove away.

Anchorage police released this photo after Patricia Phelps’ death in 2017, seeking the motorcycle driver as a “person of interest.” (Anchorage Police Department)

Jones arrived at Phillips’ garage on Wyoming Drive in Spenard, where another witness heard Phillips tell Jones to “get his stuff back” from a man named “Tundra.”

“Phillips gave Jones a gun and some methamphetamine,” the bail memo said. “Jones took a large shot of methamphetamine, got on Phillips’ black sport bike-style motorcycle and left.”

Less than a block away, on 36th Ave., Jones confronted the occupants of a dark Toyota 4Runner, asking to find someone. The man named Tundra was standing nearby. Jones began firing shots into the 4Runner, the four people inside ducked, and the driver hit the gas, according to the investigators’ account.

Phelps, the victim at the center of the recent charges, had been walking on 36th Ave. The 4Runner crashed through a fence, hitting Phelps and killed her, the bail memo says.

Jones rode back down an alley to Phillips’ house. Surveillance video appears to show him trying to hand a gun to someone before leaving on the black motorcycle.

Across town, where Jones had been staying at a home on Waldron Drive, a witness saw him arrive on the black motorcycle, leave again, then return on his own red motorcycle.

The next morning, Anchorage police responded to a hostage situation at the Waldron Drive home. According to the bail memo, Jones had hit another person in the head with a hatchet. Officers eventually arrested Jones after a standoff.

Police found a gun inside the home that a ballistics expert later matched to shell casings at the scene of the earlier shooting.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick McKay, who is prosecuting the case, explained the first-degree murder charge against Jones.

Under Alaska law, McKay said, if someone intends to kill a person and through their criminal actions causes the death of another person, even indirectly, that constitutes the crime of first-degree murder.

It’s a legal concept in Alaska’s murder statute referred to as “transferred intent,” McKay said.

“And that statute says that a person commits the crime of murder in the first degree if, with intent to cause the death of another person, the person causes the death of any person,” McKay said.

Jones and Phillips are now both jailed, with bail initially set at $1 million cash for Jones and $500,000 cash for Phillips. Neither man had an attorney listed as of Tuesday.

It’s not the first time either Jones or Phillips has been connected to a murder.

According to the Mat-Su Frontiersman newspaper, Jones plead guilty to second-degree murder for the meth-fueled killing of his coworker and sometime roommate, 27-year-old Shane Rogers, in 2000.

In November 2017 — three months after his alleged role in Phelps’ death — Phillips also helped hide and burn the body of a different homicide victim, according to a list of convictions included in the recent bail memo.