Prosecutor: Murder suspect preyed on old gay men

A man accused of killing and robbing a San Francisco resident who he had befriended in August has a history of preying on sick elderly men in the gay community, prosecutors alleged in court Tuesday.

Michael Phillips, 64, was arrested on Nov. 22 in connection with the death of James Sheahan, a 75-year-old man who was found dead with blunt force injuries on Aug. 14 in the 900 block of Bush Street.

Sheahan is thought to have died somewhere between Aug. 11 and the 14th.

Prosecutors allege Phillips befriended Sheahan, seeking to act as a sort of caretaker, and tried to get money from him before killing him when he refused.

Prosecutor Michael Swart Tuesday in court said prosecutors had video of Phillips coming in and out of Sheahan’s apartment, and that a search warrant turned up some of Sheahan’s belongings in Phillips’ possession.

In addition, Swart said there is evidence that Phillips may have previously stolen items including guns and coins from two other terminally ill elderly men after seeking to serve as a caretaker:

“You’ve got a person here who has a history of taking advantage of older gay men. … This is not the first person he’s preyed on.”

Those older cases may be difficult to prosecute, however, because the victims are dead or the statute of limitations has expired, Swart said.

Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof said he could not comment on the case until he had time to review it, but noted in court that “based on the three-page police report, I’m sure there’s a lot more to this.”

Phillips entered a not guilty plea today to ten felony counts including murder, first-degree robbery and elder abuse and elder theft, and bail was set at $3 million.

He was ordered to return to court Nov. 30 to set a preliminary hearing date.