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Victim's family wants teen's sentence to stand

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Karen Morris rejoiced when the teenager who stabbed her elderly mother to death in her West Side home was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Two and a half years later, she is shocked that a judge will bring the boy to court again and possibly change that decision.

Thomas Mallo was just 14 when he stabbed 82-year-old Phyllis Phares 35 times in her living room. The teen sometimes did odd jobs for his neighbor and often sat and talked with her on the porch.

He turns 18 this month, and by law is entitled to have his sentence reconsidered at that time. He has been serving his time since July 2010 at the Salem Industrial Home for Youth.

Meanwhile, Morris and her family have tried to heal from the horrific event. She still owns her mother's home on Frame Street and must go there often to check on it.

"It's been very difficult," she admits. "On the day of the hearing it will be exactly three and a half years since we found her.

"We went through this once," she said of the numerous court hearings involving the murder. "And now we have to go through it again."

Morris has been collecting hundreds of signatures on petitions that she will present to the judge. All ask that the 40-year-sentence stand. 

A few weeks ago, Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster ordered Mallo to be moved to the Tiger Morton Juvenile Detention Center in Dunbar in preparation for the hearing Friday.

Prosecutors objected, saying the facility wasn't secure enough for Mallo since he had attempted to escape Salem earlier this year. A guard was injured in that incident, and charges against Mallo are pending in Harrison County Circuit Court.

Morris didn't learn of the reconsideration hearing, or Mallo's move to Dunbar, until she read about it in the Daily Mail recently. And she isn't happy.

"I will be there; we'll have about 10-12 family members," she said. "I will speak like the last time, and ask for the same thing - for her to have justice for my mother.

"I really feel that he should not be let loose," Morris said. "Schooling and counseling has not helped him. I hope she doesn't reduce his sentence."

George Castelle, Kanawha County chief public defender, asked the judge to show  compassion to a youth who grew up in a filthy home where sexual abuse, cruelty and crime ran rampant. Mallo had the academic and social skills of a 7-year-old, he said.

Webster called that home "a modern day Deliverance" but was visibly shaken when shown a photograph of Phares' body, and she gave Mallo the maximum sentence.

Morris said, "We were all happy she gave him 40 years the first time. I'm hoping she stays with her conviction. My mother needs her justice.

"He doesn't ever deserve to walk the streets again," Morris said. "Nothing has changed. He would be violent if he was let out, and a menace to society."

Among the options available to the judge are a reduction in sentence or a suspension of the sentence. She could also decide to make no change in his sentence.

"What happened to my mother, myself and my family is a totally unbelievable story," Morris said. "Everyone we talk to remembers it very well. And they want him to serve his 40 years and get the judgment he deserves."

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at or 304-348-4832.  


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