At least one of the questions on the minds of people following the Doris Phillips kidnapping case has been answered: The suspect in custody is not an illegal, or even an amnestied, formerly illegal immigrant.
On late Tuesday afternoon, Lt. Clint Tims of the Ellis County (TX) Sheriff’s Department told this reporter that suspect Miguel Arciba was born “in the state of Texas.”
Doris Phillips, the 81-year-old paternal aunt of NBC Dateline anchor Stone Phillips, was reported missing on July 26.
Following the death of her husband two years ago, Mrs. Phillips lived alone in Reagor Springs, between Waxahachie and Ennis, in Ellis County, Texas, 40 miles southeast of Dallas. Her body was found Friday in an abandoned farmhouse near the town of Bardwell.
Lt. Tims said that the cause of death has not yet been established. That may explain why murder charges have not yet been brought against Arciba. (Even if the proximate cause of Mrs. Phillips’ death should be determined to have been non-violent, such as a heart attack, her death would still count as murder due to the circumstance and stress of having been kidnapped.)
On September 3, 49-year-old Miguel Arciba was arrested in the case, based on his possession of a stolen item of Mrs. Phillips’ property. According to news reports, Arciba had allegedly been harassing Mrs. Phillips to sell him some old farm equipment lying in disuse on her spread.
Arciba may have unwittingly confessed to Mrs. Phillips’ murder. He led lawmen to Mrs. Phillips’ body, and confessed to burglarizing her home, but insisted that he had had nothing to do with the victim’s kidnapping and death, maintaining that an “accomplice” had actually kidnapped and murdered the kindly cotton farm widow.
Lt. Tims told this reporter that “[Arciba's] been charged with aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, and burglary of a habitation.” No other suspects are currently in custody.
According to Lt. Tims, because of the kidnapping charge, and the denial by Texas state law (as in many other states) of a difference in culpability for an accomplice to murder, the kidnapping charge will – eventually – encompass a murder charge, as well. (The classic case is of a bank robbery, in which one of the robbers inside the bank kills someone, and the getaway driver is charged with the same murder count as the shooter.)
Lt. Sims said that Arciba has a long list of prior offenses, but as to whether he has served time in prison, “Can’t tell you that.”
According to a report by the Dallas Fort-Worth Star-Telegram’s Jack Douglas Jr., “Beginning when he was about 17, Arciba lived on Phillips' farm for a time while several members of his family worked for the victim as farm hands.”