A 31-year-old man convicted of stabbing his dad in the chest told a judge Wednesday that he’s made some bad decisions in his life, but he’s not a bad person.
Kevin M. Phillips said he has an earnest desire to change his life because he does not want to be known as a criminal or drug addict.
He admitted in Benton County Superior Court to violating a no-contact order with his girlfriend and possessing cocaine.
But when it came to the July 13 assault that hospitalized his father, Mark Engebretson, Phillips maintained that he was acting in self-defense.
“I was protecting myself. I was scared of my father, I was scared of what he would do, and I will stand by that for the rest of my life,” Phillips said.
Phillips was upset that his father recorded over Phillips’ own rap song, prosecutors said.
I was protecting myself. I was scared of my father, I was scared of what he would do, and I will stand by that for the rest of my life.
Kevin M. Phillips
Judge Alex Ekstrom ordered him to serve nine years, six months in prison for the second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and for the felony order violation.
Ekstrom said it’s concerning that Phillips also has a 2012 conviction for stabbing a stranger. That “begins to show a pattern of response to a stressful situation, anger, whatever it was,” the judge said.
Each assault with a deadly weapon counts as a strike under Washington’s Three Strikes law, which means Phillips could go to prison for the rest of his life if he gets another serious felony conviction.
Phillips was living with Engebretson in Kennewick when the men argued.
Phillips claimed that his father picked up a bass guitar and threatened to wrap it around his son’s head.
Engebretson testified that he had put down the guitar and was going to lock the door after his son ran out, but then Phillips returned and stabbed him.
The knife was never found. It reportedly bounced off Engebretson’s breastbone, but could have killed him if it had been a few inches in another direction, investigators said.
I know he is remorseful. I just wish I would have handled things differently because we wouldn’t be here.
Mark Engebretson, Phillips’ father
Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long called Phillips’ actions “very troubling,” and said he didn’t show remorse or seem to care how his father was doing. Phillips was arrested two days later after a standoff with police.
Engebretson acknowledged his family has had some problems after another son overdosed on heroin and died in 2014. The tearful dad told the judge Wednesday that he didn’t want to lose his only surviving son.
“I know (Phillips) is remorseful. I just wish I would have handled things differently because we wouldn’t be here,” Engebretson said. He left the hearing shortly after speaking before the court.
Defense attorney Shelley Ajax said the father and son did not have a healthy relationship, and that she advised her client to take his case to trial because he truly believed his life was in danger.
Seven people spoke on Phillips’ behalf, including his mother, stepfather, sister, girlfriend and a close friend.
“I’d just like to take all of this experience, all the negative, and be able to turn it into a positive in my life,” Phillips said Wednesday. “Whatever amount of time you give me, I just want you to know that I’m going to utilize that time to better myself, educate myself, and find ways to heal and cope with the grief and the trauma that I’ve experienced. I want to change.”
Ekstrom said he agreed that if Engebretson had handled the situation differently, it would have led to a better result. But he took exception to the father’s stance that it was all his fault, saying it takes two to fight.
I’d just like to take all of this experience, all the negative, and be able to turn it into a positive in my life. ... I want to change.
Kevin M. Phillips
“I’m inclined to believe that neither party deescalated, and each party said some terrible things to each other, and that each tried to minimize their own part in the event, as is human nature,” the judge said. “But at the end of the day, the terrible things that (Phillips has) said and done, and that people think you’ve said or done, don’t justify the action.
“An action, in this instance, (that) fortunately did not cause the death of the victim, but the location of the stab wound creates that possibility.”
Ekstrom denied a prosecution request to have two sentences served consecutively, which would have totaled 13 years.
He sentenced Phillips to five years for violating a court order by calling his pregnant girlfriend in February 2016. All but one year and six months will be served at the same time as the assault conviction.
His sentence for having a baggie of cocaine in his wallet when he was arrested will also be served at the same time.
Phillips has a month to appeal the jury’s assault verdict. However, he cannot appeal the no-contact order and drug cases because those were guilty pleas.