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Joseph Phillips, 63, found guilty of murder in beating of missing teen

Joseph Phillips, 63, found guilty of murder in beating of missing teen

Paul Flores Found Guilty of Murdering Kristin Smart in 1996

The jury found him guilty of first-degree premeditated murder.

By The Associated Press

March 23, 2014, 7:06AM

Updated: March 23, 2014, 7:06AM

Kristin Smart. Associated Press

A jury convicted an Arizona man who said he thought he “saw a ghost” when he killed a missing teen with an ax and then dumped her naked body in a remote part of the Grand Canyon last year.

A Phoenix jury found Joseph Phillips guilty of murder on Wednesday for the fatal beating of 14-year-old Kristin Smart along a Colorado River beach where she went boating in 1996, according to CNN. He faces life in prison.

Phillips, 63, told police he saw a ghost, the jury hearing evidence in the trial said. Smart, a Phoenix student who was studying to be a nurse, vanished from her family home in 1994 after visiting friends. She was found nearly nine months later in northern Arizona with a broken neck.

Two other women reported similarities to the murder to the police, but they were ruled out as suspects, though no motive was ever suggested.

Smart’s family said she was a happy girl who had never been in trouble.

“This has been a nightmare. It’s been just a nightmare from beginning to end and we have to be going through this day-by-day,” Smart’s mother, Brenda Smart, told CNN.

The Arizona Republic called the ruling “a victory for justice for Kristin and for her family.”

Phillips’ attorneys said they plan to appeal the verdict, which came in the middle of the trial.

“The case was riddled with holes so deep, they were digging for the rest of their lives,” said the newspaper, which found evidence of the teen’s involvement in a string of sexual encounters with other men between 1993 and 1995 when she was a high school junior. “It’s no victory. It’s a terrible thing.”

Phillips told police he thought he saw a ghost – a man dressed in black and carrying a ax – in the water when he saw Smart about

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