Crime

Teen killed in Gulfport double homicide was named as human trafficking victim, court records say

In the days and weeks before the victim of a double homicide died by gunfire, he had been posting videos on social media showing off cash and drugs.

In the public Facebook videos, Maxwell Phillips, 31, flashes wads of cash — mostly $100 bills — and sings along to music while smoking marijuana blunts.

Filming most of the videos is Brooklyn Alsobrooke, now 18, and the other victim of the double homicide just after midnight Wednesday in the 3000 block of 8th Avenue, not far from Central Elementary School.

But court records obtained by the Sun Herald show she also was named as a 17-year-old victim in a human trafficking case that Phillips was arrested in on July 17, 2018.

That case may not be connected to the killings, police say, and a motive is still under investigation.

On Friday, Police Chief Leonard Papania said his officers are busy “burning up” the streets for leads in those homicides and others, including a fifth one reported Friday morning.

First arrest

Records obtained by the Sun Herald show a glimpse into the lives of Phillips and Alsobrooke.

It was July 17, 2018, when Harrison County sheriff’s deputies arrested Phillips in a human trafficking case in which Alsobrooke, then 17, was identified as the victim. Phillips claimed to be a resident of In Town Suites on U.S. 49 in Gulfport.

At the time of his death, he was out of jail on a reduced bond of $100,000 on that human trafficking charge. A condition of bail was that he have no contact with his alleged victim, Alsobrooke.

After deputies and Homeland Security agents first arrested Phillips, Alsobrooke was put on a bus back to her hometown in Sweeny, Texas, to be reunited with family.

But less than a year later, she was back on the Coast, this time living in an apartment with Phillips.

An internet meeting

The human trafficking investigation began when an undercover officer started watching Phillips’ activity on Facebook on July 13, 2018.

He was already familiar with Phillips, records say, because of an earlier arrest in another human trafficking case involving a 14-year-old girl.

Investigators found Facebook videos Phillips posted of himself singing and talking in a hotel room, where a young minor girl, since identified as Alsobrooke, could be seen in a bed.

At one point, the 17-year-old girl is seen pulling a piece a paper from a drawer and making what appeared to calculations, possibly on collections from sexual transactions, records say. Later, footage showed her giving Phillips a rundown of her earnings.

On July 16, 2018, an investigator followed Phillips and the girl to the hotel, where he saw Phillips walking around outside. He then spotted Alsobrooke coming out of a hotel room with another man.

Police later talked to the man, who admitted he had paid Alsobrooke for sex. They met and set up the date on the website SeekingArrangement, he said.

It was the following day, on July 17, 2018, that police served a search warrant on the motel room where Phillips had filmed himself with the minor girl.

That’s when authorities learned Alsobrooke had met Philllips over the Internet, where he allegedly coaxed her into leaving her home in Texas to work for him.

Though the investigation is continuing, Papania said they have found no connection between the killings and the human trafficking case.

Anyone with information in any of the cases should contact the Gulfport Police Department 228-868-5959 or you can remain anonymous by contacting Crimestoppers at www.mscoastcrimestoppers.com or calling 1-877-787-5898.

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Margaret Baker is an investigative reporter whose search for truth exposed corrupt sheriffs, a police chief and various jailers and led to the first prosecution of a federal hate crime for the murder of a transgendered person. She worked on the Sun Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hurricane Katrina team. When she pursues a big story, she is relentless.
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