An Egg Harbor Township man with a history of domestic violence has been ordered held pending trial in the killing of his longtime girlfriend.
Lashawn Smith, 36, had a pending charge in an assault of 28-year-old Sarah Phillips shortly before he allegedly beat her to death with a hammer.
Not long before her killing, Smith broke Phillips’ nose, her stepbrother Phil Modelle told BreakingAC. He said his mother called police, but Phillips would not press charges.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy did not detail the previous incident, but said that there were other acts of violence “against this same victim.”
Modelle said Phillips was trying to leave Smith when he attacked her.
Phillips’ family was at her funeral Wednesday while the father of her four children was making his appearance in court via video stream from the Atlantic County Justice Facility, where he will now stay until the case reaches a conclusion.
In addition to previous domestic violence incidents involving Phillips, Smith also had a restraining order taken out against him by his ex-wife in 2004, Levy told Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury.
The public safety assessment found Smith a four out of six both for re-offending and as a flight risk, and recommended that he be held. The assessment did not have the domestic violence incidents for consideration, Levy said.
Smith’s previous arrests — dating back to charges as a juvenile — include robberies, simple assaults and resisting arrest, Levy said.
Public defender Steve Funk said Smith’s criminal history was not that extensive and asked that he be released with conditions.
But DeLury disagreed, ordering him held. A future court date was not set.
Smith has five children, including four with Phillps: two girls ages 10 and 9, and two boys ages 8 and 5.
The children are now with Phillips’ mother, Paula Modelle. She was told her home needs repairs in order for the children to be able to stay there.
Two GoFundMe pages have been set up to help. One by stepbrother Brad Modelle asking for help with house repairs, another by Phillips’ cousin for the children.
Phillips’ family is also trying to coordinate the repairs with those who have volunteered and is trying to set up a drop-off spot for clothing and other necessities for the children.
“If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship then you need to speak out, even if they don’t want you to,” Modelle said in a Facebook post that he asked to be shared. “Somebody who’s capable of abusing a woman is also capable of killing her. If you speak out it is very possible that you could save a life.”