Criminal history sheds new details surrounding two suspects in quadruple homicide case

State records show one of the accused killers had recently been released from prison, second suspect was already on probation in Cherokee Co.
From left, Jesse Pawlowski, Dylan Welch and Billy Phillips.
From left, Jesse Pawlowski, Dylan Welch and Billy Phillips.(Cherokee County Jail)
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 2:54 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The prior criminal history of two of the three suspects charged in the quadruple homicide case in Cherokee County reveals both a lengthy recent prison term and a previous run-in with the criminal court system in Cherokee County.

In a records request to DPS and TDCJ, KLTV has learned Billy Dean Phillips, 37, was released from state prison in December 2020. He had just served a 15-year sentence for Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child. The conviction centered around a case involving a female under the age of 13 in Dallas County. Prior to that prison term, TDCJ records show Phillips served a separate 2-year prison sentence in September 2002 on a Controlled Substance charge (cocaine) also out of Dallas County. In that case the court offered Phillips what the state of Texas refers to as “shock probation”. Shock probation allows a judge to sentence an offender to a short prison sentence, followed by probation. In this case, TDCJ reports Phillips violated that shock probation and returned to prison less than a year after that probation was granted.

Phillips , Jesse James John Pawlowski, 20, and Dylan Gage Welch , 21, are all charged with Capital Murder in the shooting deaths of John Thomas Clinton 18, Jeffrey Gerla, 47, Amanda Bain, 29, and Ami Hickey, 39.

Both DPS and Cherokee County court records show in 2019 Pawlowski accepted a plea deal offered by the prosecutor in a case involving two counts of burglary of a habitation. The terms of the plea bargain required Pawlowski to serve 10 years of probation and pay court costs. He was also ordered not to own or possess a firearm as part of the agreement. The Cherokee County District Court confirms Pawlowski was on probation at the time of the killings.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Cherokee County Sheriff Brent Dickson stated the killings had started as a robbery attempt, where the Pawlowski and the two other suspects planned to steal a gun that victim Clinton was selling. According to the affidavit, when questioned separately by detectives, Pawlowski and Phillips blamed each other for pulling the trigger in the actual killings.

DPS records show the third suspect charged with Capital Murder, Dylan Gage Welch, was convicted in 2017 in two separate cases involving felony burglary and trespassing. A judge sentenced him to pay court costs and serve 130 days in county jail on those two convictions.

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