SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2016
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — It's been almost seven years since the bodies of a prostitute featured on the HBO reality series "Cathouse" and three other people were discovered inside a burning one-story brick Oklahoma City home that authorities later said was the center of a drug distribution and prostitution ring.
Come Monday, jury selection begins in the trial of two men who prosecutors say were involved in the Nov. 9, 2009, deaths of TV celebrity Brooke Phillips, Milagros Barrera, Jennifer Lynn Ermey and Casey Mark Barrientos.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Denny Edward Phillips and Russell Lee Hogshooter on six counts of first-degree murder — Brooke Phillips and Barrera were both 22 and pregnant — and one count of conspiracy. The men have pleaded not guilty.
Brooke Phillips, who wasn't related to Denny Phillips, was among the employees featured on the cable network's show about the Moonlite BunnyRanch, a legal brothel near Carson City, Nevada. "There's lasting memory," business owner Dennis Hof said. "We just loved this girl. This was a girl with no drugs, didn't drink hardly at all. It's totally mindboggling. This girl who didn't do any drugs got killed because she was in a drug house."
All of the victims were repeatedly shot and their bodies were set on fire. Phillips and 25-year-old Ermey were also repeatedly stabbed. Prosecutors allege that Barrientos, 32, was the target of the attack and that the women were killed to eliminate witnesses.
Two other men entered guilty pleas and are serving prison time for their roles in the deaths. Denny Phillips' defense attorney, Bill Smith, said he expects the trial to last up to six weeks but declined further comment. Defense attorneys for 38-year-old Hogshooter did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Hof and others who worked with Brooke Phillips at the Moonlite BunnyRanch said the upcoming trial revives memories of her and the shock they felt when they learned of her violent death. "It's the saddest day in BunnyRanch history," he said. "That sad day just keeps going on. It just doesn't go away."
Phillips, known professionally as Hayden Brooks, was "very outgoing," Hof said, and "loved to have fun." A co-worker, professionally known as Caressa Kisses, said she trained Phillips and worked alongside her the entire time she worked at the Moonlite BunnyRanch. Phillips was at the legal brothel for about two years and left about two months before she died.
"She just glowed beauty and radiated love," said Caressa, 29, who became emotional as she remembered Phillips' life. "She was a very beautiful girl. She was absolutely passionate about life." Caressa said she "got sick" when she learned how Phillips had died. "She left a safe place where she was loved," she added.
Testimony during earlier hearings revealed that Denny Phillips, 37, and one of the men who pleaded guilty were allegedly involved in illegal drug sales with Barrientos. Denny Phillips' former girlfriend, Karine Sanders, testified the men became upset with the amount of money they were receiving for their work and came up with a scheme to kill him.
Phillips was already serving a seven-year federal prison sentence on charges related to a 2010 shootout when he was charged in the deaths.