New Brunswick

Murder victim's family sues prison system

The family of a Moncton man who was murdered in prison in British Columbia is suing Correctional Services of Canada.

The family of a Moncton man who was murdered in prison in British Columbia is suing Correctional Services of Canada.

Jeremy Phillips, 33, was killed last November at the Mountain Institution in Aggasiz by his cellmate, notorious serial killer Michael Wayne McGray.

"The Crown had failed to ensure the safety of Jeremy," said lawyer Myer Rabin, who is representing the Phillips family.

"And they failed to ensure that he was kept in a safe and secure environment and also the negligence in double bunking Jeremy Phillips with a known killer."

McGray, who was sentenced earlier this week to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Phillips, had six prior murder convictions.

His victims include Joan Hicks-Sparks and her 11-year-old daughter, who were killed in their Humphrey Street apartment in Moncton in 1998.

McGray told the media he'd killed 16 people, although he was only convicted in six cases.

In 2000, McGray told CBC News he couldn't control his urge to kill.

"It's like a craving or hunger... It's something I have to do... It gets to a point where I just can't control it anymore," he said.

"Just because I'm locked in prison doesn't mean the killing's going to stop.

"I mean, I'm almost on the verge right now where I'm going to commit another one. I'm very, very close and it's almost inevitable that it's going to happen. I can't control it."

According to information used in a search warrant, McGray admitted to guards shortly after the killing that he beat Jeremy Phillips with a post and then strangled him with a bed sheet.

Phillips, who was serving a six-year sentence for an aggravated assault at a Moncton apartment on High Street, had reportedly asked to be moved from the cell he shared with McGray because of his own concerns for his safety.

Correctional Services has never explained why McGray was moved into Mountain Institution, which is a medium security prison, or why he was put in a cell with Phillips.

The lawyer for the Phillips family contends McGray shouldn't have been sharing a cell with anyone.

He said the lawsuit, which was filed in March, is moving toward mediation.

"It's been very difficult for Mrs. Phillips not only the fact that she lost her son but also her husband recently passed away from cancer so it's been quite a difficult period for her as well as the rest of the family."

McGray, who is 47, will be 72 before he will be permitted to apply for parole.