Philip Dodd sentencing

Philip Dodd addresses the court during his sentencing hearing Thursday, Jan. 8, 2014, in Taney County Circuit Court. Next to him is his attorney, James Egan. Dodd was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Rebecca Sutton in 2003.

FORSYTH — The man who killed a Hollister woman in 2003 was sentenced to life in prison Thursday in Taney County Circuit Court.

Philip Dodd, 41, had pleaded guilty in October 2013 to the murder of 19-year-old Rebecca Sutton.

Dodd showed no emotion as Taney County Circuit Judge Mark Orr read the sentence. In the courtroom were about 20 members of Sutton’s family.

Dodd was charged in March 2013 after he confessed to investigators that he had strangled her because she had rejected him. The confession came after he talked with investigators for several days about the crime.

Dodd spoke on his behalf at the sentencing hearing.

“I grieve constantly because of my actions,” he said, addressing Judge Orr. “I don’t want to blame it on the drugs, but the anger and the bitterness comes out in ways you don’t expect. I never expected to take someone’s life.”

He also said he deserved life in prison.

“They’re right, I deserve the maximum,” he said. “I deserve this. The only thing I can do now is seek mercy from God.”

At the sentencing hearing, Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell read statements from Sutton’s mother and from her son, who was a toddler at the time of the murder.

“You have taken away all the holidays, birthdays, family gatherings and maybe a wedding,” the letter from Sutton’s mother read.

The letter from Sutton’s son read, in part, “Everyone tells me how wonderful my mom was, and it makes me sad I don’t remember her.”

Merrell had asked Orr for the life sentence. Dodd’s attorney, James Egan, had argued for 20 years based on the fact that Dodd had arranged for the interviews with investigators in an attempt to bring closure to the case.

Sutton was reported missing from her Hollister apartment by her mother March 21, 2003. Sutton’s toddler was found at the residence, documents state.

The investigation continued since 2003 between the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Hollister Police Department and Taney County Sheriff’s Department.

Sutton’s body was found in February 2004 by two hikers in the Mark Twain National Forest, according to a probable cause statement.

In March 2013, Dodd told police he disposed of Sutton’s body under a rock outcropping and covered her body with rocks, washed his car at a Branson car wash in an attempt to clean any evidence and disposed of his floor mats, police documents show.

During interviews, Dodd stated to Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Daniel Nash, lead investigator since 2005, he went to Sutton’s residence hoping to get high and have sex, according to court records.

Dodd also reportedly said he took sheets, a pillow, pillow top and any other items possibly containing his hair or DNA. After transporting the body, he drove to a construction area where he burned the pillow, pillow top, sheets and other items, according to court records.

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