‘Dateline’ details alleged murder plot

 

Aspen fugitive Pamela Phillips may have “outsmarted” authorities, so said an hourlong “Dateline” report that aired on NBC on Monday night.

The investigative news magazine tracked her down in the lakeside retreat of Lugano, Switzerland, where last winter she was living in a $5,000-per-month apartment and dining at a five-star hotel with a wealthy widower.

Extradition papers have been filed from Pima County, Ariz., where police believe she paid to have her ex-husband, Gary Triano, murdered in 1996 so she could collect a $2 million life insurance policy. The accused assassin, former Aspen resident Ronald Kelly Young, will stand trial in February.

Triano was murdered while celebrating his 53rd birthday at a country club in Tucson, Ariz. The killer planted a pipe bomb inside his car. They later found incriminating phone recordings, Fed Ex tracking numbers and a crude financial spreadsheet in Young’s apartment and storage, along with a sawed-off shotgun, a map of Tucson, and Phillips’ and Triano’s divorce filings in a van Young allegedly rented and abandoned in California. The case sat cold for nearly a decade until Young, wanted on fraud charges out of Aspen, was profiled on “America’s Most Wanted” and apprehended in Florida.

Young spent a year locked up on the fraud charges before he was released, then re-arrested to answer for the murder of Triano. He pleaded not guilty.

“Dateline” revealed new details about the case and Phillips’ life in Aspen, and Triano’s children addressed their father’s murder publicly for the first time. The episode, titled “Star-Crossed: The Tucson Developer Murder,” weaved an astrological theme throughout, partly based on an Aspen-based astrology site Starbabies.com, which went defunct before Phillips’ split to Switzerland. She launched it with Triano’s money when their two children were born.

The marriage reportedly went south when Tuscon real estate did. She took their two children, Trevor and Lois, to Aspen and Triano often commuted here to see them. They quarreled over visitation and child support payments. 

“She was kind of nouveau in the 1990s,” Aspen Sojourner magazine editor Jay Cowan told “Dateline.” “She certainly didn’t arrive here as a trust-funder or a business mogul or a Hollywood star. I think maybe she was attracted by it.”

In light of the $2 million life insurance policy Phillips collected, some in Arizona immediately began to suspect Phillips, “Dateline” reported.

“She wanted more money, and she was a socialite in Colorado and Aspen. And she obviously needed to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak,” said Lupita Murrillo, an Arizona television journalist who reported on the murder.

The van Young rented was found in Southern California in the fall of 1996. He saw Phillips romantically in Aspen when they hatched the plot, police say.

“During my search, I found a map of the Tucson area and a note that was kind of like a laundry list. You know, buy toothpaste and then down the list a little further was sawed-off shotgun,” Jim Crowley, an ex-Aspen police detective who is now working as a private investigator, told “Dateline.”

Years ago, Phillips invited Heather Triano — Triano’s daughter from his first marriage — to come live with her in Aspen and help with Starbabies. Heather and her brother, Brian Triano, grew very close to their former stepmother.

They said they were shocked when police told them their father was murdered. When they later listened to recordings between Young and Phillips (which Young allegedly made in case he ever needed to blackmail Phillips), Heather Triano said they began to believe what police have alleged: “I wanted to throw up. Yes, it’s a really hard thing to think, a horrible thing to think.”

Added Brian Triano: “We don’t want someone we know and cared about to be a murderer. If that’s the case, that’s horrible.”

Brian and Heather Phillips have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Young and Phillips seeking punitive and compensatory damages in civil court.

The 781 Meadowood Dr. residence that Pamela Phillips bought with Triano’s life insurance money and once had featured in Sojourner is now in foreclosure proceedings. It has an unpaid balance of $4.9 million and the Pitkin County public trustee is scheduled to auction off the home on Sept. 9. It was raided in 2006 by cold-case investigators who removed boxes of financial documents, computer and electronic-storage devices for forensic audits.

In addition to the conspiracy to commit first-degree murder charge out of Arizona, Phillips faces charges of driving under the influence and unsafe backing of a vehicle in Pitkin County. She failed to appear at her scheduled court appearances in Aspen this year and her local attorney has withdrawn from those cases. She was profiled on “America’s Most Wanted” last fall.

hoop@aspendailynews.com

‘Dateline’ details alleged murder plot

Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Aspen fugitive Pamela Phillips may have “outsmarted” authorities, so said an hourlong “Dateline” report that aired on NBC on Monday night.

The investigative news magazine tracked her down in the lakeside retreat of Lugano, Switzerland, where last winter she was living in a $5,000-per-month apartment and dining at a five-star hotel with a wealthy widower.

Extradition papers have been filed from Pima County, Ariz., where police believe she paid to have her ex-husband, Gary Triano, murdered in 1996 so she could collect a $2 million life insurance policy. The accused assassin, former Aspen resident Ronald Kelly Young, will stand trial in February.

Triano was murdered while celebrating his 53rd birthday at a country club in Tucson, Ariz. The killer planted a pipe bomb inside his car. They later found incriminating phone recordings, Fed Ex tracking numbers and a crude financial spreadsheet in Young’s apartment and storage, along with a sawed-off shotgun, a map of Tucson, and Phillips’ and Triano’s divorce filings in a van Young allegedly rented and abandoned in California. The case sat cold for nearly a decade until Young, wanted on fraud charges out of Aspen, was profiled on “America’s Most Wanted” and apprehended in Florida.

Young spent a year locked up on the fraud charges before he was released, then re-arrested to answer for the murder of Triano. He pleaded not guilty.

“Dateline” revealed new details about the case and Phillips’ life in Aspen, and Triano’s children addressed their father’s murder publicly for the first time. The episode, titled “Star-Crossed: The Tucson Developer Murder,” weaved an astrological theme throughout, partly based on an Aspen-based astrology site Starbabies.com, which went defunct before Phillips’ split to Switzerland. She launched it with Triano’s money when their two children were born.

The marriage reportedly went south when Tuscon real estate did. She took their two children, Trevor and Lois, to Aspen and Triano often commuted here to see them. They quarreled over visitation and child support payments. 

“She was kind of nouveau in the 1990s,” Aspen Sojourner magazine editor Jay Cowan told “Dateline.” “She certainly didn’t arrive here as a trust-funder or a business mogul or a Hollywood star. I think maybe she was attracted by it.”

In light of the $2 million life insurance policy Phillips collected, some in Arizona immediately began to suspect Phillips, “Dateline” reported.

“She wanted more money, and she was a socialite in Colorado and Aspen. And she obviously needed to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak,” said Lupita Murrillo, an Arizona television journalist who reported on the murder.

The van Young rented was found in Southern California in the fall of 1996. He saw Phillips romantically in Aspen when they hatched the plot, police say.

“During my search, I found a map of the Tucson area and a note that was kind of like a laundry list. You know, buy toothpaste and then down the list a little further was sawed-off shotgun,” Jim Crowley, an ex-Aspen police detective who is now working as a private investigator, told “Dateline.”

Years ago, Phillips invited Heather Triano — Triano’s daughter from his first marriage — to come live with her in Aspen and help with Starbabies. Heather and her brother, Brian Triano, grew very close to their former stepmother.

They said they were shocked when police told them their father was murdered. When they later listened to recordings between Young and Phillips (which Young allegedly made in case he ever needed to blackmail Phillips), Heather Triano said they began to believe what police have alleged: “I wanted to throw up. Yes, it’s a really hard thing to think, a horrible thing to think.”

Added Brian Triano: “We don’t want someone we know and cared about to be a murderer. If that’s the case, that’s horrible.”

Brian and Heather Phillips have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Young and Phillips seeking punitive and compensatory damages in civil court.

The 781 Meadowood Dr. residence that Pamela Phillips bought with Triano’s life insurance money and once had featured in Sojourner is now in foreclosure proceedings. It has an unpaid balance of $4.9 million and the Pitkin County public trustee is scheduled to auction off the home on Sept. 9. It was raided in 2006 by cold-case investigators who removed boxes of financial documents, computer and electronic-storage devices for forensic audits.

In addition to the conspiracy to commit first-degree murder charge out of Arizona, Phillips faces charges of driving under the influence and unsafe backing of a vehicle in Pitkin County. She failed to appear at her scheduled court appearances in Aspen this year and her local attorney has withdrawn from those cases. She was profiled on “America’s Most Wanted” last fall.

hoop@aspendailynews.com