Man involved in deadly robbery charged separately in fatal DUI crash
Phillip Sullivan II was one of six men involved in a plot to rob a man of marijuana at his home in York last year that led to the killing of Whispering Wind Bear Spirit.
Sullivan, who prosecutors said was one of four men to infiltrate the York City home on the night of May 3, 2021, entered a guilty plea in that case on Monday. He also faces separate allegations in a fatal horse-and-buggy crash in Lancaster County.
The other two men accused in the York City plot, a pair of brothers who were the point men in the robbery, came in later as the shock and awe, according to investigators. One brother fought his target, a man he accused of stealing his pot, while the other brother wielded a gun to keep everyone else back.
But there was a hitch; one of the people in the house didn’t stay back. Witnesses testified that Whispering Wind Bear Spirit walked up to the brothers in an attempt to break up the fight. But the gun fired, and the 41-year-old was shot in the torso. They died a couple hours later.
The brothers fled together, while Sullivan drove off with two of the other guys, police said.
Sullivan was picked up a couple days later, interviewed by investigators and charged for his role, initially facing felony counts of robbery, burglary and conspiracy.
He was cut loose on a $25,000 unsecured bail, according to court records. His case quickly advanced out of district court, and he was arraigned into the York County Court of Common Pleas.
DUI hit-and-run: But two months after the robbery and Spirit’s death, Sullivan was arrested as the suspect who killed a horse-and-buggy driver in a DUI hit-and-run crash in Lancaster County.
Sullivan admitted to his role in the York robbery Monday, saying he drove three of his co-defendants to the house that night. He spoke via streaming video from the Lancaster County Prison while he faces more than a dozen charges in the fatal crash.
The 19-year-old from Lititz pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to theft and reckless endangerment. Those charges were added to the case, and the felony counts were dropped as part of the plea agreement.
He said Spirit’s shooting was unplanned.
“I was not aware that somebody was going to be killed that night,” Sullivan told the court.
Judge Kathleen Prendergast accepted the plea and sentenced him to five years of probation, also as part of the agreement.
But the term came with the caveat that Sullivan might serve out the probation while he remains jailed in Lancaster.
There, he’s charged with felony counts of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle and causing an accident resulting in death, along with seven misdemeanor DUI counts involving alcohol and marijuana, and three summary offenses for speeding, following too closely and the illegal purchase of alcohol, court records show.
The crash: East Earl Township police responded to a hit-and-run crash on Division Highway in the early morning hours of July 5, 2021, and found 18-year-old Andrew Stoltzfus injured on the side of the road. His horse was dead in the middle of the road next to the cart it pulled. A Lexus grill emblem was found nearby, police said in charging documents.
The Honey Brook teen died from his injuries a couple days later at a hospital in Lancaster.
Witnesses at the scene told police they saw a damaged silver Lexus stopped near the crash before it drove away. Witnesses also mentioned Sullivan's name as possibly the driver, though the affidavit doesn’t state how they knew that.
The evidence at the scene indicated the Lexus was speeding on the curving 45 mph road at night, and when the car came up to Stoltzfus’ cart, the driver didn’t stop in time, according to police.
About 45 minutes after the crash, police responded to a reckless driving report, found Sullivan’s damaged Lexus and stopped it on Main Street in East Earl Township.
Police said Sullivan looked and smelled intoxicated. Blood tests showed his blood-alcohol content was over .103%, above the legal limit of .08%, and he had marijuana in his system, the charging documents show.
Sullivan was arrested and jailed in Lancaster County on a $250,000 bail, court records show. His unsecured bail in York County was also revoked.
Records show he's on the criminal trial list for Nov. 22 in Lancaster County's Court of Common Pleas.
The brothers charged in Whispering Wind Bear Spirit’s death both pleaded guilty in August to “a robbery that went wrong.”
Ryan Strada, 21, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit robbery and to charges in a couple of other unrelated cases. A second-degree murder charge was dropped.
He was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison.
Nicholas Strada, 19, admitted he fired the shot that killed Spirit, alleging they came toward him with a bottle.
He pleaded to third-degree murder and conspiracy to commit robbery counts while, like Ryan Strada, a second-degree murder charge was dropped. He was sentenced to 12-25 years in prison.
Both brothers are now held at the State Correction Institution at Camp Hill, state records show.
Sullivan pleaded guilty next, followed by another co-defendant, Michael Stewart, on Monday.
Stewart, 24, of Harrisburg, also pleaded to misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to theft by unlawful taking and reckless endangerment.
He admitted he was part of the robbery plot, and as part of it, a person was killed.
“Yes, your honor, I’ll admit to that,” he told Judge Prendergast.
Like Sullivan, Stewart was also originally charged with felony counts of robbery, burglary and conspiracy. Those charges were dropped, and he was sentenced to five years of probation as part of a plea agreement.
He was not in custody during the hearing.
Police said Sullivan had driven Stewart and two other co-defendants, Oscar Cook and Jaden Landis, to the house on Smyser Street the night the robbery went down. Cook, according to police, helped put the plan together.
Landis, 19, of Manchester, also appeared in court Monday.
He didn’t enter a plea. His case was postponed until Feb. 27 while negotiations on a potential agreement continue, attorneys said.
Landis’ new hearing date is the same as the next hearing date scheduled for Cook in his case.
Landis and Cook, 20, of Spring Garden Township, both still face felony charges of robbery, burglary and conspiracy.
— Reach Aimee Ambrose at email@example.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.