Military deserter was wanted since 1998: Bizarre twist in suicide case

ocala news, marion county news, military deserter, suicide, u.s. marine corps
Military deserter John Thomas Phillips [Deceased]
Ocala, Florida — On March 24, 2015, at approximately 4:40 p.m., Ocala Police Department officers responded to 2104 Southeast 3rd Avenue in reference to a report of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Upon arrival, officers found that a subject, identified as Edgar Curtis Phillips, Jr., 41, had shot himself in the head in front of his girlfriend.

The previous day, OPD officers had arrested Phillips on a domestic battery charge. He returned to the residence upon his release and took his own life.

While at the residence, officers noticed drug related items in plain view, along with the weapon Phillips used to shoot himself. Upon conducting a protective sweep of the residence, what appeared to be a clandestine methamphetamine lab was located in the basement.

Officers backed out, secured the scene, and contacted the Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team (UDEST). Agents from this unit obtained a search warrant for the residence and further investigation revealed that it was not a methamphetamine lab, but that MDMA was being manufactured in the form commonly referred to as “Molly.”

Ocala Fire Rescue and the Marion County Fire Rescue HAZMAT Team assisted agents. In addition to the items located that were used to produce the drug, there were packaging materials and weapons found. All were seized by UDEST agents.

According to OPD Public Information Officer Sergeant Angy Scroble, as Detective Mark Fisher continued his investigation into the death of Phillips, information concerning his identity came to light. Detective Fisher was informed that the deceased person was not actually Edgar Phillips, but that he was Edgar’s younger brother John Phillips. Detective Fisher then began to do research to find out if the deceased was in fact John Thomas Phillips, 37. He found that Edgar Phillips had died in a boating accident in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland in 1993.

“A criminal history check revealed that John Phillips had an active warrant for his arrest for desertion by the U.S. Marine Corps that had been issued in 1998. With the help of the FBI, the on-file prints of John Phillips were compared with those of the deceased,” Sergeant Scroble said. “OPD Latent Fingerprint Examiner Richard Pickell was able to positively identify the person who shot himself as John Thomas Phillips and not Edgar Curtis Phillips, Jr. He assumed his brother’s identity and had been living under his name for approximately 17 years.”

The Medical Examiner’s Office completed their autopsy that confirmed the death was caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Investigators believe John Phillips most likely killed himself because he was afraid that after being arrested, his true identity would be revealed.

The investigation into the death is now closed.

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