2 month Nettie with her father, Michael Phipps lost their lives tragically in a house fire March 1, 2021. Both of their deaths have been confirmed to be homicides. The house fire has been confirmed to have been deliberate. Suspect? Nettie's mother, Michael's girlfriend, Stefanie Sanders, 26.
First responders were called to their residence about 1:40 a.m. in Vermilion, Illinois. The fire had already consumed the entire home. Sanders and two other children were outside.
Charges for Sanders came May 3, 2021 in Edgar County with two counts of murder, two counts of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated arson and residential arson.
WCIA reported on one of Michael's friends: “Michael was one of the most reliable, humble people you ever met. When you needed a friend, Michael was there. No matter what the situation was, no matter the time of the night anything,” said Stephanie Newell, friend of Michael Phipps.
The release says Michael Phipps was 35-years-old and Nettie Phipps was just 2-months-old when the fire happened. Friends say becoming a father was an accomplishment for Phipps.
“When he became a father, he became a new person. He glowed. He was the happiest man in the world. There was nothing that could make him anything but happy,” said Newell, “He loved his daughter. He was goal oriented to be the best father that she deserved and he knew he could be, and nothing and no one was going to get in the way of that.”
INFORMATION RELEASE - EDGAR COUNTY CORONER RE: Follow up to March 1, 2021, residential fire in Vermilion, Illinois
Edgar County Coroner, Scott Barrett, has ruled the manner of death for both Michael and Nettie Phipps as homicides. The father and his infant daughter died in an early morning fire at their Vermilion, Illinois, residence on March 1, 2021.
An autopsy conducted at Terre Haute Regional Hospital on March 2, 2021, by Forensic Pathologist, Dr. Dele Adeagbo, revealed that the cause of death for 35-year-old Michael J. Phipps was a combination of thermal exposure, carbon monoxide inhalation, and smoke inhalation.
An autopsy conducted on 2-month-old Nettie L. Phipps revealed that the cause of death was a combination of thermal exposure and carbon monoxide inhalation.
Stefanie L. Sanders, 26, was taken into custody May 3, 2021, by the Illinois State Police following the issuance of a warrant by the Edgar County State’s Attorney. Formal charges and additional details will be released by the Illinois State Police.
Sanders is the mother of the infant and was in a relationship with Phipps, prior to his death.
ILLINOIS STATE POLICE INVESTIGATE AND MAKE ARREST IN RESIDENTIAL FIRE INVESTIGATION
Edgar County, IL – On May 3, 2021, the Illinois State Police (ISP) Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Zone 5, arrested Stefanie L. Sanders, 26 year old female of Tuscola, Illinois, for two counts of First Degree Murder (Class X Felony), two counts of Involuntary Manslaughter (Class 3 Felony), one count of Aggravated Arson (Class X Felony) and one count of Residential Arson (Class 1 Felony).
On March 1, 2021, the ISP DCI, Zone 5 was requested to investigate a residential fire with fatalities that occurred in the 100 Block of Water Street, Vermilion, Illinois. On May 3, 2021, as the result of a thorough criminal investigation and with the assistance of the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office, Edgar County State’s Attorney’s Office, and Edgar County Coroner’s Office, Sanders was taken into custody in Charleston, IL.
Anyone wishing to provide additional information regarding this investigation or other crimes are encouraged to contact the Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigations, Zone 5 at (217) 278-5004 (tip line, callers can remain anonymous), or by email at ISP.DCI.Zone05@Illinois.gov.
The public is reminded that all presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
A central Illinois woman has been charged with murder and other counts in connection with the March deaths of her infant daughter and her boyfriend in a fire, authorities said.
Illinois State Police arrested Stefanie L. Sanders, 26, of Tuscola on Monday on two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of involuntary manslaughter, and one count each of aggravated arson and residential arson. She was arrested on a warrant issued by the Edgar County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Michael J. Phipps, 35, of Vermilion, passed away Monday, March 1, 2021, at his home during a residential fire. His two-month-old daughter, Nettie Louann Nicole Phipps, also perished in the fire.
A memorial visitation is from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 6, at Pearce Funeral Home, with a private funeral service immediately following. COVID-19 restrictions will be followed for the safety of all those in attendance.
The case is currently pushed all the way down to January 28, 2022 at 9am at the Edgar County Courthouse.