FAISON — A Faison man is being investigated by local, state and federal authorities after constructing an elaborate gallows display that includes hanging mannequins labeled with the names of government officials.
District Attorney Dewey Hudson said that the display is “very troubling and disturbing.”
“It was brought to my attention by investigators here earlier this week,” he said. “I rode out there and viewed it, and yes, it was very troubling. The mannequins are life-sized and are hanging from the gallows.”
Hudson said names of judges, attorneys, Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace, Hudson and Mike Easley are displayed under the mannequins.
In addition to Hudson, Wallace and Easley, the names of judges Paul Hardison and Russell Lanier and chief council Kathrine E. Jean are also listed under the mannequins.
“To see one of those wearing a judge’s robe, hung in effigy, is pretty disturbing,” he said. “Right now, we are investigating the incident with our local, state and federal authorities involved.”
The man in question is Lacy Phipps. Published reports state that Phipps said that he put up the display to bring attention to his problems with the government and the improper way the murder of his son, William Phipps, was handled.
According to reports, on Sept. 5, 1995, Phipps and his son were shot by a 7 mm gun in an ambush when they were returning home together. Both were shot — Lacy survived, William did not.
The triggerman, Jimmy Coley, was tried for the murder, but in July 1996, an Onslow County jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity. Coley testified that he “didn’t remember” anything that happened from shortly before the murder until about noon the following day. A psychologist stated that Coley had a mental breakdown because the Phipps family was terrorizing his parents.
“This has been going on in some sort of way since then,” said Hudson. “It has been almost 20 years now, why he (Lacy) picked the time to do this now, I have no idea. It is a very elaborate platform and it took a lot of time and money to build it ...”
Hudson said that while Phipps has his first amendment rights, as well as his property rights, the display has become troublesome.
“It has caused a lot of trouble,” he said. “We have heard that he built it (placing the mannequins) last Saturday night about 10 p.m. and people were out there watching with lawn chairs ... The names weren’t put on the mannequins until Monday, that is when I went out there. But it (the display) has caused trouble. There have been numerous calls and complaints about it and now with all the media attention, it is going to get worse.”
Hudson said that the attention is something that Phipps wants.
“He seems to enjoy the attention and notoriety it brings,” he said. “From what I understand he has written a book about it and its out there ... But for our part, the investigation will continue.”
The writings Hudson is referring to is an explanation of the reasons behind the gallows, as well as blown up copies of letters Phipps has sent to the North Carolina State Bar and the Judicial Standards Commission demanding an investigation into the “corrupt judges and attorney’s” in Duplin County. The letters are dated March 24, 2009.
Phipps also has a sign on the yard plugging a 7:26 video that has been posted on YouTube (Keyword: patriotphipps).