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Couple arrested for murder of Utah woman whose mother warned she had been abducted


Two suspects have been arrested for the murder of a Utah woman who was found dead just days after her mother warned that she had been kidnapped. 

Joseph Edward ‘Joey’ Fought, 30, and Brittany Elizabeth ‘Josie’ Phillips, 27, were taken into custody on August 31 in San Bernardino, California, authorities announced Tuesday. 

Their arrests came a week after 26-year-old Stevie Shay Wilkerson’s body was found in a rural part of Iron County, Utah. Her death was ruled a homicide.  

Stevie was first reported missing from her home in St George on August 9 by her mother, Vawna Wilkerson.   

The day after Stevie vanished, Vawna issued a desperate plea on Facebook claiming that her daughter had been ‘abducted [and] taken against her own will’ by a couple who threatened to kill her.

Vawna claimed Stevie was ‘being held hostage by a man calling himself Joey and a woman calling herself Jose’, who she ‘accidentally crossed paths with’ at a hotel. 

‘Please help me find my beautiful baby girl… they are armed and have threatened to kill her,’ the mother wrote in all caps. 

Authorities investigating the case never confirmed any of the details Vawna presented in her Facebook post, but it now appears that she was right about the nicknames of the suspects. 

Stevie Shay Wilkerson (left) was found murdered in Utah just days after her mother Vawna Wilkerson (right) warned that her daughter had been kidnapped by a couple who were holding her hostage and threatening to kill her

Stevie (right) was reported missing in St George on August 9 and her body was recovered about an hour away in Iron County two weeks later on August 23

One day after Stevie vanished, her mother Vawna issued a desperate plea on Facebook (pictured) warning that the 26-year-old had been ‘abducted [and] taken against her own will’. Police have not commented on Vawna’s claims

Iron County Sheriff’s Lt Del Schlosser said Fought, of North Carolina, and Phillips, of Missouri, were arrested at a motel in Barstow, California, on August 31. 

According to a probable cause statement filed in support of the arrests, the couple were seen in the St George area around the time Stevie was last seen leaving a Claridge Inn on South Bluff Street.  

The suspects were allegedly driving a white Chevrolet Colorado pick-up truck that had been reported stolen from a rental company in Arkansas – matching the vehicle description Vawna gave in her post.  

The statement from Lt Schlosser said Fought and Phillips transported Stevie and another unidentified female in the truck to Cedar City, where the other woman said Stevie was ‘removed from the truck and left near the city of Enterprise’. 

Stevie’s body was found near where the woman said she was left on August 23, and police said it had been there ‘for some time’. 

Authorities have not said how Stevie was killed or whether she was alive when she was dropped off near Enterprise.  

Fought and Phillips are currently being held on charges for felony possession of a stolen vehicle, but Lt Schlosser said ‘additional charges are pending’. 

The pair have been held without bond since their arrests as they await extradition to Idaho.   

Both suspects have extensive criminal histories spanning multiple states, police said.  

Police have not said how Stevie (pictured) died or how she knew the suspects in her death 

In the comments section of her Facebook post, Vawna claimed that the couple who took her daughter were wanted for kidnapping in other states. 

She also expressed frustration with the investigation prior to Stevie’s body being found.

‘I don’t think they are even doing anything,’ she wrote on August 11. ‘They quit keeping in touch with us yesterday…’  

Vawna further claimed that the police, Stevie’s boyfriend and staff at the hotel where she disappeared were refusing to give her descriptions of the people she claimed abducted her daughter. 

Stevie’s cousin, Angie Golish, expressed her heartbreak at the body discovery in an interview with the Deseret News.  

Golish described Stevie as an animal lover with ‘a big heart, not a mean bone in her body’.

‘She was just sweet and a little shy,’ the cousin said. ‘She was so kindhearted and loved all animals, big and small. She dreamed of being a veterinarian growing up.’   

‘My aunt said it feels extra tragic that she would die this way because she was truly a person who wouldn’t hurt anyone or anything,’ Golish added in apparent reference to Vawna.   

Stevie worked as a quality control inspector at Megapro Screen Printing in St George, according to her Facebook profile.  

In her final post on June 26, she asked for help finding an apartment to rent with her boyfriend and dog, Niko.   

Stevie’s cousin, Angie Golish, described her as an animal lover with ‘a big heart, not a mean bone in her body’. Stevie is pictured with her dog Niko

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