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Suspect in 7-Eleven Murder Case To Be Evaluated

Psychiatric evaluation ordered for accused 14 year old.

Rody Phillips' court-appointed attorney Crystal Meleen requested that her 14-year-old client be evaluated to determine his sanity at the time 7-Eleven clerk Sun Ku Kwon was murdered.

Phillips, of Fort Belvoir in Mount Vernon, is charged as an adult for the murder of Kwon, 60. Kwon was stabbed to death on Dec. 6, 2004 at the 7-Eleven on the 5600 block of Mount Vernon Memorial Highway where he worked as a night clerk.

During a motion hearing last Friday, April 1 in Fairfax County Circuit Court, Meleen asked Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jonathan C. Thacher to appoint a psychiatrist in the case. Meleen said she spent 25 hours calling doctors, trying to get a psychiatrist with expertise in evaluating children to take her client's case.

"This is a dilemma, this is a disaster," Meleen said. "I've exhausted all my resources."

After Phillips recently moved to Northern Virginia after growing up in Texas with his father, Phillips' mother and step-father noted signs of depression and made arrangements for Phillips to be treated by a doctor, Meleen said during the hearing. He had been on anti-depressant medication a little over a month at the time Kwon was murdered.

When Phillips was sent to the Juvenile Detention Center after he was arrested, he was "put on suicide watch, he slept away from other youth, he was self-abusive," Meleen said. But since Phillips stopped taking the prescribed medication, his grades at the juvenile detention center have improved, he is no longer a suicide threat and is no longer kept in isolation, she said.

"Obviously, we have serious mental health concerns on the date of the offense," Meleen said.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Murphy said the state should use the facilities taxpayers are already paying for. He suggested that Phillips be evaluated at Central State Hospital in Petersburg before private psychiatrists are considered.

Last Friday, Judge Thacher said he wants to know from Murphy and the Commonwealth exactly who would be available at Central State to evaluate Phillips.

Judge Thacher granted Meleen's motion for Phillips to be evaluated at another hearing held Wednesday, April 6, according to court records.

A trial is scheduled for later this month, although the evaluation could force a delay.

<1b>— Ken Moore