Crime

Man who killed pregnant newlywed in Tacoma gets new sentence

Chica Marie Webber would have had a milestone birthday this year, her mother told a Pierce County judge Wednesday.

“I’d have loved to see what she was like at 40,” Diane McMahan told the court.

McMahan was there to ask Superior Court Judge Gretchen Leanderson not to give one of the men who shot her pregnant daughter in the head any more leniency than she had to at his resentencing.

Leanderson sentenced 38-year-old Phillip Victor Hicks to 60 years, eight months in prison. That was four years less than his initial sentence in 2004, but far more than the 25 years he asked for Wednesday.

He and 40-year-old Rashad Demetrius Babbs were required to get new sentences because the state Supreme Court determined there was an error in how their original ones were calculated.

Babbs, who is serving 61 years, two months, is scheduled to be resentenced next year.

Webber, 21, was walking with her husband March 22, 2001 on Tacoma’s Hilltop when Babbs and Hicks approached the newlyweds.

When the Webbers refused to buy drugs or give the men money, Babbs and Hicks fired, killing the woman who was three months pregnant and seriously injuring her husband, Jonathan Webber, according to News Tribune archives.

The newlyweds were only carrying eight cents.

Jurors convicted the men of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and unlawful gun possession.

“Please don’t make their sentences any less than you have to,” McMahan asked Leanderson on Wednesday.

She said the Webbers had a young son at the time of the shooting who is now 20.

McMahan also told the court she forgives Hicks and Babbs.

“I hope they’ve learned something from this because I sure have,” she said.

She’s learned how precious children and grandchildren are, she told the judge.

Terri Williams-Walker, Jonathan Webber’s sister, told the court that she was 10 when the shooting happened and that she constantly tagged along with her brother and his wife.

“Everywhere they went, I was there too,” she told the judge.

Chica, she said, was probably one of the best things that happened to her brother, who has struggled with addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder following the shooting.

Williams-Walker said she thinks there are few situations in which someone should spend the rest of their life in prison.

“I never want to see someone locked up forever,” she said.

She told the court she’s married to a man who has been incarcerated since he was 14.

The questions for her, she said, is what changes a person has made behind bars to make sure they won’t return to prison, and if they’ve taken accountability for what they’ve done.

“Is there a sorry?” she asked. “Because it does affect people.”

Defense attorney Peter Connick told the court that Hicks is also married. His wife of about six years describes him as compassionate, understanding, encouraging and supportive, the attorney said.

Connick said Hicks has been a mentor to his stepson and to other inmates. He noted that, besides Hicks’ family, his first-grade teacher was at his resentencing.

The attorney asked the judge to give Hicks “a chance to get out and have some life remaining.”

He described Hicks’ background as “exceptionally broken.”

“He’s come a long way,” the attorney said. “Obviously he’s grown up in the 19 years he’s been in prison.”

Deputy prosecutor Jesse Williams argued against leniency.

“I don’t dispute that Mr. Hicks had probably a terrible upbringing,” Williams said, but he told the judge that Hicks knew right from wrong.

“What he did here was horrendous,” Williams said. “... They (the Webbers) were doing nothing. That could have been anyone.”

He said Hicks wasn’t a juvenile at the time of his crime and that the court didn’t have unfettered discretion when resentencing him.

“At some point it becomes less about things like rehabilitation than punishment for the crime you committed and deterrence to others would would think about committing the same types of crimes,” Williams said.

When it was Hicks’ turn to address the court, he stood and read from a piece of paper that trembled as he spoke.

He said he was sorry for his actions and, with a sob, told the judge that he knows he can’t heal the wounds he caused.

“I can only do the best that I can from here,” Hicks said.

He’s been incarcerated for almost half his life, he told the judge.

He’s changed in that time, he said, in part by developing skills as an adult that allow him to think before he acts.

Hicks has completed programs while incarcerated to better himself. Other programs he’s not able to participate in, he said, because his sentence is longer than his life expectancy.

He also told the judge that he’s the father of a rambunctious 2-year-old girl.

“I desperately want to be in her life,” he said.

Judge Leanderson noted that the Webbers’ son was that age at the time of the shooting.

She called Hicks’ crime heinous and callous.

“It was you that told Jonathan to empty his pockets or he was going to die,” she said.

Jonathan Webber took his wife’s hand and walked away, the judge recounted. Then Hicks fired.

Leanderson said she had no doubt that Hicks had a difficult childhood, much of which he spent in state custody.

She also said she believed he knew right from wrong and that she had less discretion in sentencing someone who committed a crime at the age of 20 than someone who committed their crime before turning 18.

The judge acknowledged Hicks’ efforts to better himself and to help other inmates. She gave him a couple years less than what she said she could have imposed for the attempted murder of Jonathan Webber.

For Chica Webber’s death, she gave Hicks the high-end.

“The community needs to feel safe when they’re walking down the street,” she said.

Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.
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