Jury Finds Man Guilty of Murdering 75-Year-Old Victim


News from the Office of District Attorney George Gascón



October 18, 2018

Twitter: @GeorgeGascon

SFDA CONTACT: Alex Bastian (415) 553-1931 | Max Szabo (415) 553-9089



SAN FRANCISCO — Today, District Attorney George Gascón announced that a jury found Michael J. Phillips, 65, of San Francisco, guilty on all counts including the first degree murder of James Sheahan, a 75-year-old San Francisco resident.  The murder occurred on August 14, 2017 in the Nob Hill area. 

“I want to applaud the SFPD for a superb investigation, this was a devastating loss for the victim’s family and friends,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “This verdict sends a clear message that there is no place for violence in our community.”

A jury found Phillips guilty of eight additional felonies, including aggravated mayhem, infliction of injury on an elderly person likely to cause great bodily injury, first degree robbery, first degree residential burglary, theft, and other crimes related to Mr. Sheahan’s murder. Additionally, a jury found the allegations true that Phillips committed the murder of Mr. Sheahan during the commission of a robbery and burglary. The jury began deliberating on October 16, 2018, and came back with the verdict this afternoon after only a day and a half of deliberation.

According to court records, on August 14, 2017, an officer from the San Francisco Police Department was dispatched to 969 Bush Street, Apartment 201, to conduct a well-being check on Mr. Sheahan. The police department responded after Mr. Sheahan’s brother had reported that he had not heard from his brother in several days. The officer attempted to contact Mr. Sheahan inside, but was unsuccessful. Neighbors of the victim told the officer that they had not seen Mr. Sheahan in approximately a week. The officer returned to the entrance of Mr. Sheahan’s apartment, and while standing outside the closed door, smelled the odor of what he believed was a decomposing body. After the building manager opened the door, the officer found Mr. Sheahan deceased, lying face down on the floor of his living room.

A medical examiner concluded that Mr. Sheahan’s death was a homicide, and that the victim had suffered injuries to the back of his head and sustained defensive wounds.

An investigation of Mr. Sheahan’s apartment uncovered evidence of blood spatter, personal belongings strewn about the apartment in a disorganized manner, a broken knife in the kitchen, and cleaning supplies in unconventional locations. A search of the apartment also led the investigators to Phillips, who the victim’s friends and family reported had recently asked Mr. Sheahan for a loan, which Mr. Sheahan had denied to provide.

Additionally, surveillance footage from Mr. Sheahan’s apartment building showed Phillips entering and existing Mr. Sheahan’s apartment five separate times on Saturday, August 12, 2017, from approximately 10:20 Am to 8:00 PM. During this time, Phillips carried multiple bags in and out of the apartment and wore gloves when he initially entered the complex after being buzzed in. Subsequent footage shows Phillips exiting the building without gloves and later re-entering with the use of keys. During this same interval, surveillance footage from a bank nearby showed Phillips attempting to withdraw money from an ATM. According to court records, at the same time, activity on Mr. Sheahan’s credit card showed that several attempted transactions at the same bank were declined. The following day, August 13, 2017, surveillance footage again showed Phillips entering the building in the morning using keys and existing several hours later carrying a white bankers box and rectangular print.

During a subsequent search of Phillips’ apartment, car, and storage unit, officers discovered items belonging to Mr. Sheehan including a box, keys, journals, and wallet containing the victim’s credit card. Phillips was arrested and taken into custody on November 22, 2017.

“This man will be held accountable due to the thoughtful and thorough investigation of the San Francisco Police Department, led by Sergeant Domenico Discenza,” said Assistant District Attorney O’Bryan Kenney.  “Mr. Sheahan and his family will have justice because of their tireless efforts.”

The Honorable Loretta Giorgi presided. This successful prosecution is the result of an excellent investigation conducted by Sergeants Domenico Discenza, Timothy Kiely, Nicholas Chorley and Brent Dittmer of SFPD’s Homicide Unit.  Additional thanks go to Paralegals Tony Yu and Jessica Diamond, and to IT Support Professionals Leland Chan, Morris Moore, and D’Andre Lewis.  Assistant District Attorney O’Bryan Kenney prosecuted the case.