A Somerset man is facing a murder charge after the Pulaski County Grand Jury indicted him in connection to an alleged road rage altercation that occurred June 10 on the county’s busiest highway.
According to a release from the Somerset Police Department, 63-year-old Thomas Ray Burton of Somerset was indicted on one count of Murder for allegedly causing fatal injuries to Ervin Phillips, 73, also of Somerset.
Phillips passed away last Friday (June 28) at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, where he’d been hospitalized since the incident more than two weeks before.
SPD reports that Officer Jordan Hoseclaw responded to a “fight in progress” call at the intersection of US 27 and Ky. 80 (Traffic Light #4). Once on scene, Ofc. Hoseclaw found Phillips sitting in the roadway being attended to by an off-duty EMT (emergency medical technician). According to the release, Phillips had an obvious head injury and was disoriented.
Multiple witnesses at the scene described the incident as developing from road rage. Phillips was driving a white Hyundai Santa Fe and was stopped at Light #4 next to a tan Geo Tracker driven by Burton.
According to the release, witnesses told officers the altercation started with a verbal exchange between the two men — which ultimately “escalated to Burton striking Phillips with a blunt type weapon.” Witnesses indicated that both men left their vehicles — Phillips with a can in his hand and Burton with “some type of long object.”
Burton allegedly struck Phillips more than once with the object and Phillips fell as a result, SPD reported from witness statements. The witnesses also stated that once Phillips fell, Burton returned to his vehicle and proceeded south on US 27.
Phillips was transported by Somerset/Pulaski County EMS to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital. Burton was later located by Officers Chris Gates and Scott Marlar.
Due to his condition, Phillips was unable to give officers details of his exchange with Burton.
According to SPD, witnesses allege Burton was upset with Phillips and complaining that Phillips had pulled out in front of him and then proceeded to hit his brakes repeatedly as the two drove south on US 27, where they eventually stopped for a red light with Burton in the outside lane and Phillips in the middle lane.
Phillips’ wife told officers that he only hit his brakes in an attempt to get Burton to stop tailgating them as they proceeded south, according to the release.
Burton reportedly told officers that Phillips pulled out in front of him and then proceeded to continuously hit his brakes as they traveled south on US 27. Burton allegedly acknowledged beginning a verbal argument with Phillips which led to both men exiting their vehicles to continue the argument. Burton stated that Phillips poked him with his cane which then prompted Burton to pick up an object from inside his vehicle to defend himself against Phillips. Burton reportedly could not explain how Phillips wound up on the ground but stated once Phillips fell, he returned to his vehicle and continued south on US 27.
The news release states that officers have located video of both the Phillips and Burton vehicles traveling on Ky. 2227 prior to turning onto US 27. The video reportedly shows Phillips turning onto Ky. 2227 from McKee Road, well in advance of Burton’s approaching vehicle.
Phillips remained hospitalized at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital where he never fully regained consciousness well enough to speak with investigators, according to SPD. He passed away June 28 due to the injuries believed to have been sustained during the event between himself and Burton.
SPD Detective Larry Patterson presented the case to the grand jury earlier this week. Upon their return of a murder indictment, Burton was served with the arrest warrant by Ofc. Jordan Miller and transported to the Pulaski County Detention Center.
At press time, Burton remains jailed in lieu of a $250,000 cash bond.