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Judge upholds 40-year sentence for teen convicted of murder

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An 18-year-old man convicted of a brutal murder on Charleston's West Side when he was a juvenile had his 40-year sentence upheld by Kanawha County Judge Carrie Webster on Friday morning.

Thomas Mallo was convicted of murdering 82-year-old Phyllis Phares in her home in the summer of 2009. Mallo, who was 14 at the time of the murder, lived across from Phares on Frame Street.

He stabbed the elderly woman 35 times before cutting her throat so deeply that she was almost decapitated.

Mallo was tried as an adult and Webster sentenced him to the maximum for second-degree murder -- 40 years. However, since he was a juvenile at the time, state law required his sentence be reviewed when he became an adult.

Kanawha County Chief Public Defender George Castelle asked Webster to reconsider her original sentence based on the fact that Mallo had grown up in an abusive, filthy home where sexual abuse, cruelty and crime ran rampant.

Castelle also asked Webster to consider that Mallo was a juvenile when he murdered Phares and that the U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly has said juveniles should be treated differently than adults.

Mallo also had not committed any violent acts while incarcerated at both the Tiger Morton Juvenile Detention facility in Dunbar and the Salem Industrial Home in Harrison County -- except for one instance on June 30, 2012.

On that day, Mallo was accused of beating of a Salem guard during an escape attempt.

Webster was not swayed by the arguments. Although she said she took the circumstances of his home life into account, she did not think it was appropriate to reduce his sentence.

"It (the murder) was so violent and there was nothing I could find in the record that this type of act is less than deserving of the maximum," Webster told Mallo.

A visibly emotional Webster illustrated her point by saying Mallo had stabbed an 82-year-old woman over 30 times and that Phares "died pleading for her life."

Mallo stood before a packed courtroom filled with members of his family as well as Phares' to give a brief statement before his sentence was again handed down.

"I want Mrs. Phares' family to know that I'm really sorry for what I done," he said.

However, Karen Morris, Phares' daughter, did not believe his apology was sincere.

"I think it might have been something his lawyers told him to say," Morris said after the sentencing.

Morris stood before the court and pleaded for Webster to reaffirm her original sentence of 40 years.

"Today I am asking that the scales of justice be balanced and that the rights of my mother and family not be forgotten," she said.

Morris and her husband discovered the body of her mother three and a half years ago today, she said.

"Thomas Mallo does not deserve to walk the streets of our society ever again," Morris said.

Morris described her mother as being a "beautiful person," who was caring and loving.

"She had concerns about how the Mallo children were being treated," Morris said.

Morris had advised her mother to stay away from the situation because she feared the family would retaliate against her.

She had also asked her mother to move from the area out of concerns for her safety, but Phares adamantly refused.

"She lived there 50 years and she wouldn't move," Morris said.

Along with Morris' written statement, she submitted a petition containing 630 names of individuals who supported the maximum sentence. She also brought a picture of her mother taken on her 80th birthday to display at the sentencing. 

"With Thomas (Mallo) living in our society, this could happen to anyone's mother, but unfortunately it happened to my mother," she said.

 Dr. Thomas Horacek, a clinical psychologist who is a contractor for the West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services and the West Virginia Division of Corrections also testified during the sentencing.

Horacek had examined Mallo during his time in Salem. He believes Mallo had a history of disturbing and aggressive behavior that likely would not change in the future. Horacek also claimed Mallo was unpredictably dangerous.

Castelle argued that Mallo's behavior could change, and that many studies show a child's behavior patterns are "transit" and are likely to change as they grow older.

Horacek disagreed, and said there are men in correctional facilities around the country who exhibited aggressive, violent behavior as a child and had not changed.

"But you can't name a single study that says these conditions aren't transit," Castelle said.

"That has not been my experience in corrections," Horacek responded.

Horacek also said Mallo had provided "rationale" for killing Phares that he found "very disturbing."

"He experienced the belief that the victim was trying to have his niece and nephew taken from the family," he said.

Horacek said Mallo's family life was horrific.

"He comes from a very dysfunctional family with very atypical values and behavior," Horacek said. 

Mallo's family members also attended the proceeding Friday. All five adults living in the household at the time were arrested for the conditions in which the children were kept. All five were convicted of various charges.

Mallo lived in a home where the mattresses were so dirty they were on the verge of rotting, Webster said. Human feces was smeared on a toilet when officers originally entered the home and there was a hole in the children's sleeping area large enough for a child to fall through, she said.

The home was also infested with cockroaches and Mallo had to sleep on the front porch because the family did not have a bed for him.         

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at ;


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