EVERETT — Rebecca Phebus always put her children first.
When money was tight, she made sure her two sons had food to eat, even if there wasn’t enough for her, son Jeff Graves wrote in a letter to a judge Monday.
The Arlington woman was killed by her estranged husband two years ago this month.
On May 24, 2019, Jeffery Phebus shot and killed Rebecca Phebus, 57, at the south Everett plastics manufacturer Achilles, according to charging papers.
Achilles had fired the Arlington man a month earlier “for a threat of violence to an employee — presumably a reference to Rebecca,” according to the charges.
Jeffery Phebus was sentenced Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court to 31⅔ years in prison for first-degree murder.
Rebecca Phebus “should be alive today, spending Mother’s Day with everyone who loves her. May should be a happy time,” Graves wrote in a letter read aloud in court Monday. “Now it’s just a reminder of another Mother’s Day without her joy, another birthday on May 15 that she cannot celebrate, and of course the constant reminder of the day she was murdered.”
Jeffery Phebus, 61, began harassing and threatening his estranged wife in January 2019, when she moved out of their Arlington home, according to police reports. He threatened Graves, too, the son said.
“I still have a protection order in place, and he has not once recanted his threat to kill me. I know for a fact he is capable, willing and evil enough to carry out his final threat against me,” Graves wrote. “Mr. Phebus caused us to run from our home multiple times, he caused us to not see my children due to their safety. … I had to install a security camera system in order to simply try to sleep, because any noise I heard could be him trying to kill my family.”
On the day he shot Rebecca Phebus, the estranged husband donned a company jacket and entered his former workplace. He went to a maintenance building where she worked, grabbed her and pointed a gun at her. Witnesses saw him pull the trigger.
Jeffery Phebus served as the vice president of the Downtown Arlington Business Association in 2016. He was well liked in the business community, said Bill Dettrich, a DABA board member who worked closely with the defendant-to-be.
“It shocked all of us — it shocked the whole board. I was totally surprised when I heard what happened. It’s just crazy,” Dettrich said in late April. “At the time, I would have called him my friend. We were all friends. That’s how we got stuff done.”
The estranged husband pleaded guilty to premeditated murder April 20. He admitted to committing the crime while armed with a firearm, adding a mandatory five years to his sentence.
Superior Court Judge Jennifer Langbehn asked Jeffery Phebus if he would like to say anything before she imposed a sentence Monday. He paused, then turned his body 180 degrees to face Graves in the courtroom gallery.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
He said nothing else.
Under state guidelines, Jeffery Phebus faced 25 to 31⅔ years behind bars. In the plea deal, defense attorneys Christine Olson and Caroline Mann agreed with deputy prosecutor Matthew Pittman in suggesting a sentence at the high end of that range.
“The defendant forced Rebecca to live her final months under great fear for her life, and when he finally chose to snatch it from her and her loved ones, it was the result of deliberate planning and action,” Pittman wrote in the state’s sentencing memorandum.
Separate harassment charges were dropped in Island County as part of the plea agreement.
“Words failed me as I searched for something that might bring comfort or solace to Becky Phebus’s family,” Langbehn told the courtroom Monday. “And I realized that there were no words that the court could offer.”
Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; email@example.com; Twitter: @reporterellen.