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Blood in apartment basement leads to murder charges against Bridgeport man with domestic violence history

Tiffany Phillips’ brutally beaten and stabbed body was discovered inside in a bathroom after the landlord called Chicago police Monday and reported finding blood in the basement that appeared to have dripped through from the couple’s apartment above.

The Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
James Harrison, who was convicted of trying to kill a previous girlfriend three decades ago, was taken into custody for 39-year-old Tiffany Phillips’ murder.
Sun-Times file

Tiffany Phillips went to the Bridgeport apartment she shared with her abusive ex-boyfriend over the weekend to gather her belongings so she could eventually move out.

But she never made it out of the building, Cook County prosecutors said Thursday.

Phillips’ brutally beaten and stabbed body was discovered inside in a bathroom after the landlord called Chicago police Monday and reported finding blood in the basement that appeared to have dripped through from the couple’s apartment above.

James Harrison, who was convicted of trying to kill a previous girlfriend three decades ago, was taken into custody for Phillips’ murder the next day. He had multiple cuts on his hands when he was arrested, prosecutors said.

Phillips had dated Harrison, 53, for seven years but had recently told a friend she wanted out of the abusive relationship.

She had filed a police report against Harrison on Aug. 27 after officers came to the couple’s apartment in a response to a fight they had when Harrison allegedly destroyed some of Phillips’ personal items.

James Harrison arrest photo
James Harrison
Chicago police

Phillips, 39, texted a friend Friday, telling her that she was going to be putting her belongings in a storage facility before moving to the friend’s home near Aurora, prosecutors said.

Later that day, the landlord of the apartment building, in the 300 block of West 29th Street, heard Phillips and Harrison yelling. The landlord later sent a text message to Phillips and Harrison, but only heard back from Harrison, prosecutors said.

Concerned, the landlord called police, but was told to wait 48 hours. The landlord called police again Monday. When officers responded, they knocked on the apartment door, but no one answered, prosecutors said.

As the officers left, the landlord went to the basement to listen for footsteps in Harrison’s apartment but found “a puddle of blood on the basement floor” instead, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.

When the landlord called police again, an officer followed up by calling Harrison. In that call that was recorded by the officer’s body-worn camera, Harrison allegedly told the officer he had last spoken with Phillips on Friday morning.

Later Monday, the landlord let officers into the building, where Phillips’ body, stabbed more than 20 times, was found partially in the bathtub, prosecutors said.

There were bloodspots throughout the apartment where two bloody kitchen knives and cleaning supplies stained with blood were found, prosecutors said.

Harrison’s assistant public defender argued Thursday that “there really isn’t any evidence at this point” against his client — a father of four who works as a home inspector and contractor.

Judge John F. Lyke Jr. responded by saying, “Humbly I disagree with his lawyer. What I heard was an avalanche of circumstantial evidence. It’s a ton of it.”

Lyke, who ordered Harrison held without bail, also pointed to the felon’s 1990 attempted murder conviction.

In that case, when Harrison’s then-girlfriend was breaking up with him, he struck her with a hammer and cut her with a knife, prosecutors said.

Harrison was expected back in court Nov. 2.