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Iowa man who brutally beat his girlfriend to death dies in prison

IOWA CITY – An Iowa man who brutally beat his girlfriend to death died in prison, authorities say.

Christopher Michael Phipps Sr. was pronounced dead due to natural causes at 7:40 a.m. on Friday, May 21, 2021 at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics. Phipps was 54 years old at the time of his death. Prior to being transferred to UIHC, he was an inmate at the Iowa State Penitentiary.

Phipps had been serving a life sentence for the crime of Murder 1st Degree from Polk County. His sentence began on October 7, 2010.

According to court records, Phipps and his girlfriend, Melissa Dean, had a volatile relationship. On September 17, 2009, Dean planned to leave Phipps, and was dropped off by friends at the trailer she shared with Phipps at approximately 5:30 p.m. Dean intended to collect some of her belongings, and then travel to Ohio. This was the last time anyone saw Dean alive.

The next morning at approximately 5:10 a.m., Phipps called 911 from a payphone in a store parking lot. Phipps informed the dispatcher he accidently killed his girlfriend by beating her up. Police arrived and found Dean’s body in the back of Phipps’s pickup truck covered by a sheet, an area rug, and used tires. An autopsy revealed Dean died as a result of manual strangulation, and also suffered multiple blunt force traumas to the face, head, chest, and ribs.

A search of the trailer revealed blood splatter in the living room on the walls, ceiling, and furniture. From the blood splatter evidence, the State’s identification technician was able to conclude Dean was struck both while standing and also while on the floor. Dean also had a non-fatal stab wound to the neck.

The State charged Phipps with first-degree murder on October 29, 2009. Phipps gave notice of his intent to rely on the defenses of diminished responsibility, intoxication, and self-defense. The case came on for trial on August 9, 2010, and the jury found Phipps guilty as charged. Phipps was sentenced to life in prison on September 30, 2010.


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