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Twin Sisters Charged With Killing Man Who Married Each One Twice

June 5, 1991

BELLE FOURCHE, S.D. (AP) _ Twin sisters are on trial for conspiring to kill a man who married and divorced each woman twice.

Darlene Phillips and her twin sister Delores Christenson, 46, are charged in the April 1990 suffocation death of 85-year-old Walter Gibbs, who continued sharing his house with them and Mrs. Phillips’ new husband.

Each was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and aiding and abetting first- and second-degree murder.

Jerry Phillips, Darlene’s husband, admitted he put a pillow over Gibbs’ face and suffocated him because he didn’t want to see him suffer.

In exchange for his testimony, prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to reduced charges of conspiracy to commit second-degree murder.

He testified Monday that he and the sisters had several conversations about how to kill Gibbs after Gibbs changed his will in January 1990 to name Christenson as beneficiary.

Christenson’s lawyer, Bob VanNorman, told jurors that Gibbs and Christenson continued to care for each other after their divorce.

He characterized Jerry Phillips as a bully who had decided he wanted to head the household.

Jerry Phillips testified that Christenson developed a test of the pillow attack in March 1990, with her sister acting as Gibbs.

″(Christenson) said we wouldn’t have to worry about getting kicked out in the street″ if Gibbs died, Jerry Phillips said.

Jerry Phillips also testified that he and Christenson had been lovers and that he still loved her even though he’s married to her sister.

Gibbs’ estate, being contested by his cousins, is estimated at $178,000.

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