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The “Making A Murderer” Story You’ve Probably Never Heard About – Cookeville, TN

Excerpt from Herald-Citizen, August 19, 1999

Have you seen “Making A Murderer”? What if I told you that Phillip Mullins case is almost identical to this?

Phil isn’t technically my Uncle, he’s my cousin. His mother was my great-grandmother’s sister. People on Tik Tok coined the phrase “Free Uncle Phil” so I refer to him as Uncle Phil when speaking about his case.

My Uncle Phil has been in prison 40 years of his adult life, and he’s 60 years old.

It started when he was 21 and went to jail for rape. He never raped the girl though, it was his girlfriend. They had been dating for a while and living together. The problem was, the girl’s father wasn’t down with her dating a black man and didn’t like them being together, so he said that she was raped and pressed charges on Phillip. Mind you, this was Cookeville, TN in the 80s.

Phillip served 17 years and was released in 1997.

On August 18, 1999, someone broke into the home of 87 year old Vernell Dixon and suffocated her to death.

On August 19, 1999, my Uncle Phil was arrested on a drug charge. (He sold drugs to an undercover months prior)

While he was in jail, he could not access his shoes… He thought it was weird, but let it go and continued fighting for a bond so he could go home.

A couple of days passed and he ran into an old friend who was getting booked in, the friend then told him that he seen him in the newspaper as the suspect in the murder of Vernell Dixon.

Seeing as my uncle went to jail the morning after, he had no clue a murder had even happened. He was confused and told the man that he had the wrong person.

That night, the detective came in and formally charged him with first degree premeditated murder.

Months pass and he goes up for his preliminary hearing and is found NOT guilty due to lack of evidence. So they had to drop the charge of first degree murder.

Phil continues serving time on his drug charge and after a year of being in jail, he gets indicted for felony first degree murder, second degree murder, esp. aggravated robbery, and esp. aggravated burglary.

While fighting his case, his lawyer took blood, semen, and pubic hairs from him to send to the crime lab in DC… The results come back in his favor & his lawyer said he’d be coming home.

They wouldn’t let this information come up in trial for some reason though.

Phil asked his lawyer his defense strategy & why he won’t tell them about the DNA… and his lawyer said “he already knows the state was going to convict him and he didn’t give a damn” (per a latter Phil wrote to the judge begging for different counsel)

Page 3 of the letter Phil wrote to Judge Leon Burns while he was awaiting trial. Notice that Phil seemed to have trouble spelling back then… While being in prison he’s taught himself how to read/write law & spell.

During trial, he found out why he couldn’t access his shoes… A woman who worked at the jail testified on my uncle’s behalf saying the detectives had taken his shoes to the crime scene to match them up with footprints… The problem is, they did this without a warrant and before Phillip was ever charged.

Phil was found guilty by an all white jury within 3 days of his trial starting. He was sentenced to life without parole for First Degree Murder merged with second degree murder & especially agg robbery & buglary. (Though he was already found not guilty due to lack of evidence) Did the jury not know?

They used his past against him and painted him out to be a drunk and a monster, which is how he is in prison based off of circumstantial evidence alone.

They found no physical evidence linking him to the crime scene, no evidence linking him to the woman, and no evidence linking him to the crime. Yet, he was thrown away without a key.

They offered him a plea of 25 years, but he wouldn’t take it because he was adamant that they had the wrong person and he learned from his last case not to plea out to something he didn’t do.

As soon as he was sentenced in 2001, Phil has fought adamantly for his freedom and maintained his innocence.

For 22 years, he’s been appealing every chance he gets, studying law, and trying to get his case in the public’s eyes.

He was granted a post conviction appeal in 2004 and didn’t find out until 4 years later in 2008 thanks to an inmate who was reading the Tennessee Attorney’s Manual. His lawyer (John Appman) never told him he was granted a hearing & they forged documents and testified on his behalf. Although he wasn’t present nor knowledgeable about the hearing, he was denied due to “clear and convincing” evidence.

The night of the murder, Phil was up the street from the woman’s house (800 feet away) at a bar he used to frequent named John’s Place.

The bar Phil was at the night of the murder.

Once Phillip was given his transcripts and court documents, he found out the only foot print they had of him was at the bar he said he was in that night. There was no footprint ever found at her house that belonged to him. Though there were 80+ other foot prints found.

The defense said a shoulder print on the door lined up to be someone around Phil’s size, but it was a hot august night, Phil was wearing a tank top and had long hair… if that was indeed Phil’s shoulder print, there would’ve been DNA. Phil later found out that the shoulder print didn’t line up to be someone of his stature.

The shoulder print they said was Phil’s

A TBI agent also testified that the shoes didn’t match the footprints found at the crime scene, but they wouldn’t let that come up in trial either.

The woman he was with that night was not able to testify on his behalf because the state said it would ruin their case and she was in turn charged with burglarizing an uninhibited residence (yes, the same residence they said Phil murdered Vernell in at the same time) She took the plea and served 2 years because she said they told her if she didn’t take the burglary charge, they’d charge Phillip was burglary and charge her with murder. (She also has been fighting for Phil since she was released – check out the Facebook live I did with her on my Facebook page)

Vernell Dixon’s house

They say this woman was murdered and her house was robbed and ransacked, but looking at evidence photos… That’s not the case. Whoever killed this woman knew exactly where she was and came in to kill her and that’s it.

Untouched dresser & jewelry box that was full of jewelry

They said Phil was a drunk and a crack head and that he robbed her house to get money to buy drugs, but what crack head would leave empty handed? What crack head would leave two purses (one under the foot of her bed, the other hanging up on her door) with over $2,300 in them… jewelry boxes full of jewelry…. And not touch anything in the house?

The purse at the foot of the bed

I picked up his case in February of 2021 and have been able to connect more dots and people than the detectives originally working this case have.

I’ve been in touch with the star witness (Terry Dawson), the victims family, and everyone else who has ties to this case.

Remember when I said whoever killed this woman knew her? Well, the star witness said the detectives told her that her grandson killed her, but they wanted Phil off the streets because he sold dope and this was their chance to get rid of him. And when I talked to a member of Vernell Dixon’s family? They said their first thought was the grandson killed her, the only reason they thought it was Phil was because the prosecution (Once disbarred DA William “Bill” Gibson & David Patterson) made it seem like he was guilty.

Phil is not the only person Bill Gibson wrongfully imprisoned, but those are stories for another day.

Fast forward to now, Phil was granted a new hearing. This hearing was wrongfully denied at first (a year prior) because the judge said he plead guilty… when in fact he was found guilty by a jury…

If I wouldn’t have picked his case up and called the judge out on Facebook, he wouldn’t have a hearing right now. Not only did I tag the judge in a post with the attached document… I called his office, and when I was met with a rude office clerk who wouldn’t take a message for me to give to him… I posted his office number on Facebook and told people to call up there and leave a message on my behalf.

Thread of Facebook Statuses below ⬇️

Finally!!! 🙌🏾 He granted it 9 days after he contacted me.

It’s clear that someone else murdered Vernell Dixon and Phil is a victim of the court system.

He lost his mom while being in prison… He worked for 3 years just to save $300 so he could purchase his transcripts to prove his innocence… It seems he was dyslexic when he first came to prison and has not only taught himself how to read and write, but he also knows law like the back of his hand. He also has graduated many programs and has a few degrees and certificates under his belt.

My great grandmother, Elizabeth & Phil’s mother, Dorothy.

He didn’t go to prison and “sit down”

No, he’s been fighting from day one and says he’ll continue to fight until there’s no breath left in him.

Note written by Phil

At the beginning of the year I asked God to lead my steps and take the wheel in my life…

When I came across Phillips case I got on my knees and prayed… With tears streaming down my face, I said God if this man is innocent, I want you to open doors for me swiftly and help me get him released… if he’s guilty I want you to stop me in my tracks.

Me at the Tennessee Supreme Court – first time going through actual documents

And from day one, doors have been opening. EASILY. Everything is pointing to his innocence.

Help me help him.

I’ve had meetings with the NAACP and a few other organizations, but they didn’t offer any real help AT ALL. All of this of straight groundwork from me (who has no law degree or training in the field), a lawyer & popular podcaster from New York who reached out to help with counsel, and two VERY *special* friends I met while working this case. I need help to get this to the next level so Phil doesn’t lose another 22 years of his life.

In the great words of my Uncle Phil, people lie, evidence doesn’t. Let’s bring this innocent man home & clear his family’s last name.

Thank you in advance ❤️

5 thoughts on “The “Making A Murderer” Story You’ve Probably Never Heard About – Cookeville, TN

  1. I love you and the determination of making this happen. It makes me cry unbelievably of how awesome this is and the weight that has come off my soul. Praise God For You and,Abundant Blessings 🙌


  2. This is an incredible story. I’m so proud of you! I would love to help out in any way that I can. Way to go girl! You are truly making waves. #FreeUnclePhill


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