ARLINGTON — About five years ago, Jeff and Becky Phebus opened the Lil’ Thrift store downtown across from City Hall. Today, Becky is dead, and Phebus is charged with first-degree murder with bail set at $1 million.
Phebus had been elected president of the Downtown Arlington Business Association, although he did resign suddenly in May 2017 before closing their store and leaving town. He was first named to the DABA board in January of 2015. DABA members chose not to comment.
Time in Arlington
The Phebuses had seven years of experience in the secondhand goods trade when they opened Lil’ Thrift. Their wares ranged from vintage original movie posters and antique newspapers to household items and movies on VHS and DVD. “My wife, that’s her baby,” Phebus told The Arlington Times of Becky’s maintenance of the store space. They showed sensitivity for disabled people, making sure their store wasn’t cluttered to make room for wheelchairs, walkers and scooters. They also did not sell clothes, instead donating them to local families in need. They started their second careers in estate sales, after Phebus retired as an auditor and Becky from the courts system.
They had moved to Arlington to be closer to their son. Before moving downtown they had a store in Arlington Plaza for about three years.
“This is a family business, and one of the things that we love most is that the people who walk through our doors come from all walks of life,” Phebus said at the time.
Phebus also could be seen around town entering his 1956 Studebaker in car shows. He had retrofitted it into a vintage-style police car.
Shooting in Everett
Now Phebus, 59, is suspected of shooting and killing his estranged wife, 57, in Everett May 24.
The two separated after a decade of marriage. Becky had been living on Camano Island and working at a Japanese plastics manufacturing company in south Everett.
Wearing a company jacket to disguise himself, Phebus walked into her workplace, grabbed her by the hair and neck, and as she screamed for help he shot her with a gun, according to documents filed in Snohomish County Superior Court. The medical examiner’s office says she died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds.
Phebus reportedly took off in a Corvette, and later that morning exchanged gunfire with police before being subdued with non-lethal rounds east of a Safeway on Broadway.
In January, Phebus sent vague, threatening texts to Becky, according to an Island County sheriff’s deputy. A week later, he suggested to a 9-1-1 dispatcher a “suicide by cop” scenario, in which he would confront his stepson with a gun, according to an arrest warrant.