Man who killed girlfriend, buried her in garden for no apparent reason goes to prison
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IDAHO FALLS — The brutal stabbing murder of a woman whose family described her as “loving, compassionate and radiant” left people asking why.
Philip Michael Schwab, 35, will serve a 25-year-to-life prison sentence for the first-degree murder of his girlfriend, Kaylynn Blue. Investigators found Blue’s body in a shallow grave in their backyard on June 24, 2019 — a day after he killed her.
“Unfortunately, in my career as a defense attorney, a prosecutor, and as a judge, I’ve seen a lot of crimes and have handled lots of cases,” District Judge Bruce Pickett said before handing down the sentence Wednesday. “This one makes no sense. … I have struggled with the why.”
Schwab pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement that stipulated Bonneville County prosecutors recommend he spend no more than 25 years to life in prison. Defense attorneys agreed to recommend no less than 15 years. Although Schwab is convicted of first-degree murder, which is punishable by death in Idaho, prosecutors did not leave that as an option. In court documents, prosecutors wrote that Schwab’s disability and IQ of 76 make issuing the death penalty unwarranted.
“Kaylynn was a special kind of person, and I don’t say that lightly. … One thing that Kaylynn’s traumatic loss has taught me is that everybody grieves differently,” Tristan Blue, Kaylynn’s brother, said in a victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing. “Part of my grieving process involves spending many nights over the past couple of years lying awake and asking myself the question I’m sure many of us have asked, which is, ‘Why?'”
Tristan Blue played two saved voicemails he received from his sister before her murder. He said the messages are what he has left to remember her by.
“Hey brother, I just sent out your birthday card today. Let me know when you get it. Also, I just wanted to call and see how you were doing. Talk to you later, bye,” Blue said in one of the voicemails.
On June 24, 2019, Blue had missed multiple shifts at work, and no one could get ahold of her. Her co-workers at Walgreens alerted family members, who requested police do a welfare check. The Idaho Falls Police Department arrived at the home on Thayer Bridge Circle where Schwab and Blue lived to find the gruesome scene.
Investigators say Schwab directed police to Blue’s body lightly covered by dirt in a flower garden in the backyard. During interviews with police, Schwab confessed to stabbing Blue in the middle of the night with a hunting knife replicating the one used in the horror film “Scream,” according to Bonneville County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Alayne Bean. An autopsy revealed a couple of dozen stab wounds across Blue’s face, neck and chest, which led to her death. Schwab then dug a shallow grave and buried Blue.
Bean said around the time of the murder, Schwab took to Facebook in a bizarre series of status updates, one of which reads, “If stabbing someone is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Schwab also texted his mother, who was not home and was recovering from surgery, saying, “It’s going to be over soon, and I just want to hear you lol, just a heads up … just us. I’m ready to have fun with you.”
The only explanation Schwab gave investigators that day was Blue thrashed around in her sleep and accidentally hit him, according to court documents obtained by EastIdahoNews.com.
Schwab then killed the two family dogs and left them in a dumpster in the garage.
“This was just random and brutal, unexpected and not to someone who had wronged him but to someone who was his biggest support,” Bean said. “We don’t know why. … I want to close by saying one other thing we don’t know. We don’t know and can’t quantify the trauma that the Blue family is going to experience the rest of their lives.”
Schwab’s defense in the cases mostly focuses on his diagnosis of 22q 11.2 deletion or DiGeorge syndrome. According to the National Institutes of Health, DiGeorge syndrome symptoms vary widely from person to person. Apart from the physical implications, people with the syndrome are at an increased risk for developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
“This case is hands down probably the most tragic case I have had in the 20 years I have been practicing law,” said Jordan Crane, Schwab’s defense attorney. “Aside from child victims, rarely do you find a victim that no one has a bad word to say about, is nothing but good in the world and did absolutely nothing to deserve what happened to her.”
Crane said Schwab’s life situation only “magnifies that tragedy.” Crane said after the diagnosis of DiGeorge syndrome, the bullying he experienced, the divorce of his parents and the death of his father, all the emotion built up. Crane said those with DiGeorge syndrome struggle to articulate and express their emotions.
“We have someone who hasn’t exhibited any signs of violence in his 35 years,” Crane said. “And then for something like this to happen, it makes you wonder why.”
Schwab did not say much during the sentencing and did not want to give a statement.
“I think it’s already been said by my counsel and Mr. (Tristan) Blue especially,” Schwab said.
In addition to the time in prison, Pickett also ordered Schwab to pay $10,000 in fines and $3,285.66 in restitution to Blue’s family. The restitution specifically covers Blue’s cost for cremation and counseling services received by her loved ones, according to court records. Other restitution in the case remains ongoing if the family incures additional costs.
“The hardest thing about criminal law … I would note there is no criteria to try and bring the victim back,” Pickett said. “There is nothing this court can do to alleviate the pain or the suffering of the victim’s family in this case. The court can’t do that, but the court does take into account the life that was lost and the good person the victim was.”