Last words haunt surviving teen’s sentencing in fatal fire
In the last moments of his 14-year life, Joe Phillips dialed his friend’s cellphone, cursing in panic. He was trapped by flames that had gotten out of control during what had been a summer afternoon of mischief inside a vacant building.
“I’m really stuck, dude,” Phillips shouted into the voicemail of the 13-year-old who’d been with him moments earlier at the tire recycling complex. “I’m (expletive) going to die.”
Then panting, with resignation in his voice, “Sorry, dude. I love you, man,” the call ended. “I never thought I’d die this way.”
On Tuesday, the surviving teen, now 14, will learn his fate in Family Court. He could be sentenced to 18 months in a juvenile detention facility after pleading guilty in March to arson and burglary as part of an agreement that erased a charge of criminally negligent homicide in his friend’s death.
The boy, whose name has not been released because of his age, has been in and out of the hospital with mental health issues and has tried to harm himself, a probation officer testified this month.