An Anderson County woman who allegedly stole a vehicle with two young children inside Tuesday evening is said by police to have looked at the children’s mother and laughed when the mother pleaded with her to stop the vehicle because her kids were in it.
Amanda J. Phillips, 29, of Anderson County, is facing several felony charges in Oneida, as is her brother, Brandon C. Phillips, 35, after the siblings were apprehended in connection with the theft on Wednesday morning.
According to reports from Oneida Police Department, the duo stole the vehicle from the parking lot of the Mi Rancho Mexican restaurant on Alberta Street in mid-town Oneida, before later abandoning it nearby and fleeing on foot.
The theft drew a massive response from law enforcement officers across both local jurisdictions, both on-duty and off-duty, as well as volunteer firefighters.
According to OPD, the mother had left her two-year-old and five-year-old children inside the vehicle as she went into Mi Rancho to pick up a takeout order at around 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, and as she returned to the parking lot she saw Amanda Phillips getting into her vehicle.
As the mother attempted to get Phillips to stop the vehicle, telling her that her children were inside, Phillips allegedly looked at her and laughed before pulling out.
When Phillips stopped the car a short distance later to let her brother get in, according to the police department, the mother grabbed the door handle and was dragged more than 30 yards down the street until the door handle broke.
As police arrived on the scene, the mother was able to use the “Find My iPad” option on her children’s iPad to ping the device, which led police to the location of the vehicle on Bilbrey Street. There, they found the vehicle abandoned, with the children safe in the back seat. The five-year-old was able to point police in the direction the duo had fled.
As police issued a BOLO — “be on the lookout” for the couple, numerous calls were received from citizens. Police followed the leads, running into several dead ends, before pharmacist Mark Byrd notified Oneida Chief of Police Darryl Laxton that a man matching the description of Brandon Phillips was on surveillance video at his pharmacy, Mark’s Family Pharmacy, off Main Street.
Meanwhile, OPD Officer Chad Jones located a cell phone that Amanda Phillips allegedly forgot inside the vehicle when she fled, which helped lead to the duo’s identities. Jones and OPD Officer Dustin Burke — who was off-duty but responded to the scene — went to the police department to write up a warrant to obtain the phone’s identity when it began ringing. Jones answered, according to the reports, and the caller asked for “Amanda.” When pressed for more information, he said “Amanda Phillips” before eventually hanging up.
Armed with a name, officers were able to learn that Phillips was from Anderson County. At that point, Clinton Police Department was involved, and an officer there was able to identify Brandon Phillips based on a photo obtained from the surveillance video at Byrd’s pharmacy.
As the investigation continued, officers learned from a tenant of the former Tobe’s Motel — now Royal Inn — that the siblings were staying there. Warrants were issued for their arrest, and officers from both OPD and the Scott County Sheriff’s Office searched for them the remainder of the night.
On Wednesday morning, a team consisting of K-9 officer Skylar Chambers, chief detective Randy Lewallen and deputies Casey Geisler and Kendra Porter from the Sheriff’s Office joined Chief Laxton and OPD officers Toby Jeffers, Zack Strunk and Andy Davis to continue the search.
At around noon on Thursday, Jeffers located the siblings walking north on Main Street, and they were taken into custody.
Allegedly, Amanda Phillips admitted to police that she stole the car.
The duo were charged with aggravated assault, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated child endangerment and theft over $10,000 — all felonies. According to OPD, additional charges are pending.