DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. - A Hemet woman who previously served as a caretaker for a woman found dead in a Desert Hot Springs home in August pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to murder and other charges that could trigger the death penalty.
Kelly Lee Phillips, 45, is accused in the death of 59-year-old Desert Hot Springs resident Chandra Saras, whose body was discovered the morning of Aug. 15 at a home in the 64100 block of Mont Blanc Court.
Phillips is charged of murder, dissuading a witness, burglary and two misdemeanor counts of forgery, with special circumstance allegations of committing the murder in commission of a felony and for financial gain.
The prosecution will decide later in the case whether to pursue capital punishment against the defendant. She will return to court on Sept. 22 for a felony settlement conference. Police have not revealed the cause of the victim's death.
The criminal complaint alleges that Phillips used Saras' name to cash two checks for $200 each at a Wells Fargo bank branch. She was arrested on Wednesday, September 7 after Desert Hot Springs police detectives served search warrants in Hemet. She was being held without bail at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.