By Kelsey Givens
A man accused of attempting to murder his daughter’s boyfriend last week appeared in justice court Wednesday to be formally arraigned on charges against him in the case.
Randall D. Phelps, 68, was arrested on Feb. 6 for attempted murder and battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm after he allegedly shot 35-year-old Benjamin Appleby in the head and abdomen outside a home on Camelot Court.
During his arraignment hearing, Phelps and his attorney Tom Gibson were read the charges against the 68-year-old in Pahrump Justice Court before dates were set for Phelps to return for pre-trial and preliminary hearings in the case.
Gibson said as of Wednesday afternoon he had not received all of the information, or discovery, in the case from the district attorney’s office and as such could not comment further on Phelps’ claims of self-defense or other aspects of the case.
The attorney did say he met with Phelps for the first time the day of the arraignment and planned to do so again before the week was out to prepare for their upcoming court dates.
Phelps was originally taken into police custody last week after 911 dispatchers received a call from the suspect stating he had just shot Appleby outside a residence located at 6531 Camelot Ct.
Phelps allegedly told them Appleby had been fighting with his daughter and that he had “threatened him” so he fired a warning shot and then fired directly at Appleby. Though he was the one who called police to report the shooting, a declaration of arrest in the case notes Phelps was very uncooperative with dispatchers and officers once they arrived on scene, continuing to hang up on 911 operators and refusing to comply with deputies’ commands.
When police pulled up to the driveway of the property just after 5 p.m., officers reportedly found Appleby lying on the ground, bleeding and unresponsive, with gunshot wounds to the abdomen and right temple.
Appleby was promptly transported to the trauma center at University Medical Center in Las Vegas for emergency treatment of his life-threatening injuries.
Further details about the events leading up to the shooting emerged after NCSO detectives served a search warrant on the Pahrump Valley Times Tuesday morning looking for contact information for someone posting detailed comments about the crime — details that hadn’t been made public — on the paper’s website. Detectives believed based on the information being posted, that there may have been a second suspect in the case.
Upon further investigation, it turned out to be a member of Appleby’s family who was privy to details about the crime and who went onto the newspaper’s website to rail against claims that Appleby was shot in self-defense.
According to that poster, when Phelps returned home to the address prior to the incident, the injuries he told police he saw on his daughter, which he said he believed were caused by Appleby, as the two regularly were involved in domestic issues, were actually caused by a moped accident the daughter and Appleby had been in a short time before Phelps came home. This fact, the poster claimed, was confirmed to the family by detectives.
In an interview following the incident, Phelps told police after noticing those injuries he walked back to his trailer, and shortly after he heard arguing coming from the other trailer on the property. He said he grabbed his pistol and walked up to the driveway where he claimed Appleby threatened to “beat him till he was dead.”
Phelps said he then fired a warning shot at Appleby and when the younger male “kept coming” at him, he fired additional shots, wounding Appleby. Police do not believe this version of events.
The poster wrote Phelps’ claim of self-defense was false, stating Phelps actually “confronted Appleby from a distance away with a gun in hand and started shooting.”
After Appleby had been shot in the abdomen, the poster stated Phelps walked up to him while he was on the ground and shot him point-blank in the side of the head, execution style.
Four spent casings and an intact round were reportedly found spread out over several feet on the driveway during NCSO detectives’ investigation, in addition to a large pool of blood consistent with where the victim was located.
Phelps was later taken to Desert View Hospital for treatment of minor injuries sustained not in a quarrel with Appleby, but allegedly in resisting deputies after he refused to comply with police commands when an attempt was made to detain him for questioning.
Based on the totality of the investigation completed the night of the shooting, NCSO detectives said they determined the shooting was in fact not an act of self-defense or defense of another as Phelps alleged.
After being released from the hospital, Phelps was booked into custody in the Nye County Detention Center where he remained in custody as of Thursday morning.
His bail is set at $50,000 and he is set to return to court for a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 27 at 9 a.m.
Appleby remains in the hospital, a bullet lodged in his brain. He is lucid and was able to provide police with a full description of the shooting despite his serious injuries.