NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — In every picture of John Phillips, his long curly hair stands out. Usually, it’s tucked away in a ball cap. No surprise for the baseball player and fan.
“He had a hell of a right arm,” his big sister Lee Phillips joked. “He could put out any streetlight.”
So when the Red Sox were playing in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, of course, John would be watching. This time, at a house on Woodlawn Drive in North Kingstown.
It would be the last night of his life.
The news of his death was especially shocking to John’s little brother Jason Williamson, who was just 6 years old at the time. He has but a few key memories of his idol.
“I remember him taking me by the hand and swinging me around the yard,” Williamson recalled. “He was fun. I know that he loved me very much, and I loved him.”
In the years since, Jason has picked up a lot of John’s traits. He plays guitar now, just like John. But more importantly, he fishes. John loved to fish. So much so, his siblings told Jason whenever he fished, John would be there with him.
Jason has a picture of him fishing on Block Island with his sons. He says in the water you can see John.
“You can vaguely see a face in the background,” Williamson said. “I don’t care what anybody thinks. I think he was right there with me that day.”
Lee sees the signs too.
“He’s been with me all my life,” she said. “He’s looked over all of us. Life is precious. Whether it’s your brother, your sister, your children. Life is precious.”
While Lee and Jason like to talk about their loving brother, Lt. John MacCoy focuses on that October night in 1986 when John died.
“There was some guns taken and those guns were found along with John’s body, and John was found dead with one gunshot wound to his head,” MacCoy explained.
The department’s investigation has taken a few twists and turns. Originally, the death was ruled a suicide. It stayed that way until 2001 when new evidence made it clear it was a homicide.
MacCoy says over the years they’ve uncovered new information. They’ve learned the names of who attended the party but he says mostly everyone says John was a friend.
Now, MacCoy has added the investigation to a deck of playing cards. Each card highlights a different unsolved homicide or missing persons case in Rhode Island. John Phillips is the jack of diamonds.
“There’s obviously somebody out there that can drop a huge puzzle piece into this puzzle,” he said.
Anyone with information about the party that night or how John was killed should call 1-877-RI-SOLVE.
Jason hopes not just an eyewitness comes forward – he wants the shooter to call.
“I think you should man up and come forward for what you’ve done,” he said. “I don’t know how a man can allow himself to roam free in this world after taking the life of a 19-year-old kid.”