ASPEN - Aspen socialite-turned-fugitive Pamela Phillips has been captured.
Phillips, who had been wanted since October 2008, was arrested Thursday in Austria, officials said. Arizona authorities believe she was behind the car-bombing death of her ex-husband, Gary Triano, in 1996.
But it was a money laundering charge out of the country of Lichtenstein, located between Switzerland and Austria, that put her in custody. When Austrian authorities detained Phillips, they discovered what's called a "red notice" about her from the International Criminal Police Organization, according to a statement from the Pima County Sheriff's Office in Tucson, Ariz.
Austrian authorities then contacted Pima County authorities at 2:30 a.m. Thursday to confirm that she is wanted on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
Phillips, 52, is in the process of being extradited to Pima County, authorities said. She is expected to be charged in the murder of Triano, who was killed when his Lincoln Town Car exploded in the parking lot at the La Paloma Country Club in Tucson on Nov. 1, 1996. He was 52.
"The force of the explosion tore the roof off the vehicle and propelled the windshield over the tops of over 40-foot-tall trees and into a swimming pool over 70 feet away. The scene investigation discovered debris in a 500-foot radius around the vehicle," says a new release from the Pima County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities believe Phillips paid Ronald Young $400,000 to kill Triano, so she could collect on a $2 million life insurance policy. Phillips and Triano, who was a real estate investor and developer, divorced in 1993.
Phillips also faces a judgment of $10 million to Triano's children, who filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against her in 2007. The judgment was issued by a Pima County Superior Court judge last month, according to published reports.
Young, 67, was arrested in October 2008 in California. He pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He is awaiting trial.
Although Phillips and Young were considered persons of interest shortly after the crime, law-enforcement officials had little evidence to go by.
Young originally was connected to the murder after police in California found weapons, a map of Tucson, and divorce papers for Triano and Phillips in a car Young rented in Aspen. The car had been abandoned in the Los Angeles area shortly before Triano's death.
While the evidence was apparently not enough to charge Young, officials continued to investigate. And in September 2006, Pima County Sheriff's deputies, federal agents and officers from the Aspen Police Department raided Phillips' Meadowood Drive home, carrying away nine computers, discs and other items. (The house was sold this past summer at a foreclosure auction.)
The method used to gather the evidence resulted in a legal battle in Pitkin County District Court, where Phillips' two Denver attorneys - Pamela Mackey and Joseph Saint Veltri - contended her property was illegally seized. They argued for the return of the seized property from the Pima County Sheriff's Office to Phillips. Judge James Boyd denied their request.
Young, who is suspected of putting inside the car the pipe bomb that killed Triano, also has ties to Aspen. He was indicted on embezzling money from Aspen residents in 1996, but left Colorado shortly before the issuing of his warrant.
Young was arrested in Florida on Nov. 21, 2005, two days after "America's Most Wanted" aired a feature on him in connection to the Aspen warrant and the Triano murder. Young was subsequently extradited to Aspen to face felony fraud charges, but Judge Boyd dismissed the counts in December 2006 because he said the local case was based on hearsay and lacked enough hard evidence to go to trial.
Even though Young was let go, in October 2008 Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said it helped in the investigation.
"It was the result of that arrest that brought in the mounds of evidence that ultimately resulted in this case being successfully completed," he said at the time.