Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Slaying Witness: 'That's Who Did It'; Galante Phillips Is on Trial in the 2005 Robbery and Shooting

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Slaying Witness: 'That's Who Did It'; Galante Phillips Is on Trial in the 2005 Robbery and Shooting

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM

Wilbur Sweet wept as he told a Jacksonville jury Tuesday how he knelt next to his dying friend and co-worker and tried to stem the flow of blood from bullets that were meant for him.

He was less emotional as he nodded toward Galante Romar Phillips, a career criminal on trial for first-degree murder and armed robbery at Sweet's Westside workplace.

"It's clear that that's who did it," said Sweet, the first witness to testify in Phillips' death penalty trial.

Sweet, 40, was robbed as he and Chris Aligada left work at a Builders First Source the night of Oct. 18, 2005. Aligada, also 40, got shot twice while rushing to Sweet's aid.

It took a year, but police charged Phillips, 28, in October 2006 after he began serving a 30-month prison sentence for an unrelated grand theft.

The murder arrest came after Phillips' former girlfriend came forward and took part in a police wiretap, said Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda. The prosecutor said police taped Phillips telling the woman Aligada "shouldn't have interfered."

"Chris Aligada made the ultimate sacrifice," de la Rionda said. "He was murdered because he got involved, because he cared about a fellow employee."

Court-appointed defense attorney Jerry Shea didn't dispute much of de la Rionda's opening statement but told jurors the killing wasn't premeditated and asked them to keep an open mind.

Sweet testified he and Aligada were leaving work when Phillips emerged from the shadows with a gun and demanded Sweet's money. Sweet said he had $3,100 on him to buy a car for his son from a supervisor at the Roosevelt Boulevard lumberyard.

After Phillips took the money, Sweet and other co-workers testified, Phillips turned away and fired twice at the approaching Aligada, who was about 10 feet away near his own vehicle. Mark Walton testified he heard Aligada scream and throw up his hands. Walton, 43, said he heard two gunshots and saw Aligada fall to the ground, squirming.

Sweet said he immediately started running, darting behind other cars in the parking lot as Phillips chased him in Sweet's Yukon.

Sweet said he eventually made it back to the office, where he found Aligada bleeding on the floor. …

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