DA's office drops West York murder charges, shooter pleads to gun violation

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

York County prosecutors have withdrawn murder charges filed against a York City grandmother for fatally shooting a 72-year-old man in his West York apartment last summer.

Barbara Ann Miles appeared in York County Court on Thursday, April 5, where prosecutors dropped her first- and third-degree murder charges, as well as a charge of receiving stolen property for having a stolen gun.

Barbara Miles

Miles, 56, of South Hartley Street, instead pleaded guilty to carrying a firearm without a license and was sentenced to 11½ to 23 months in York County Prison.

"Justice was done," said first assistant public defender Clasina Houtman, who represented Miles. "I feel the district attorney's office did the right thing ... based on the evidence they had."

Houtman noted that Miles maintains she acted in self-defense when she shot Gresville Phillip once in the chest on Aug. 25, 2017, in his Kingston House apartment.

"She has said from the very beginning that she shot him because he came at her with a knife," the defense attorney said. "There was a large knife found next to the victim's body."

Evidence examined: Senior deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy said the decision to drop the murder charges was made after reviewing results of forensic testing, including analysis of fingerprints found at the scene, DNA collected there and blood-spatter evidence.

"We knew we wouldn't be able to overcome her self-defense claim," he said.

The victim's family and West York Police "knew the results we got and why we were doing what we were doing," Murphy said.

An independent blood-spatter expert brought in by prosecutors determined a drop of blood on the knife belonged to Phillip and that it was high-velocity spatter, suggesting Phillip was holding the knife when he was shot, according to Houtman.

Also, Miles' fingerprints weren't on the knife, the defense attorney said.

"She feels badly — they were friends," Houtman said. "There is no winner in this outcome. We still have a man who's dead."

Murphy said physical evidence in the case supports Miles' self-defense claim.

"We try to get to the truth of what occurred," he said.

Assuming Miles doesn't cause any problems in prison and receives "good time," she will be released in about two months, according to Houtman.

More:Attorney: Woman acted in self-defense when she killed 72-year-old West York man

More:Police: Woman killed West York man after argument

The background: When West York Police Detective David Kahley testified at Miles' preliminary hearing Nov. 8, he said the blade of the knife found next to Phillip was 6 to 8 inches long.

He also said the .40-caliber handgun Miles used to kill Phillip had been reported stolen from Kentucky. Houtman on Thursday told The York Dispatch that her client didn't steal the gun.

Kahley testified that Kingston House employees saw Miles arrive at the apartment house about 10:30 a.m. the day of the homicide and reported that she told them she was there to see Phillip.

Miles was arrested hours later after York City Police found her passed out on the sidewalk in the 600 or 700 block of West Princess Street, the detective has said.

Under cross-examination by Houtman, Kahley testified that he found no sign of a struggle in Phillip's apartment, but he said that neighbors reported hearing Miles and Phillip arguing for about 90 minutes before hearing a gunshot.

Kahley said his investigation determined that Miles and Phillip were just friends and that Phillip's blood-alcohol level at the time of his death was 0.36 percent — more than four times the legal limit for driving in Pennsylvania.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.