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Love and Order

AMARILLO - For nearly four years, Katie Phipps lived a nightmare.

First, she was accused of murder, imprisoned for more than a year before she was exonerated. Then basically put on trial for something she did not do, but Katie is not bitter.

Katie Phipps became famous for all the wrong reasons. Wrongfully accused of murder, but still judged even after being exonerated.

"The public does not need a reason to persecute, they just need an excuse," said Phipps.

Phipps' life was turned upside down on April 7, 2014, the night her then husband's ex-wife Robin Spielbauer was viciously murdered.

Katie was originally charged in the case and held for more than a year before the DA eventually discovered she could not be the killer.

The DA repeatedly apologized for the mistake during the trial. 

"Now, it's not just us saying that she didn't do this, that she's innocent," said Randall County District Attorney, James Farren.

"It had to take a lot of courage for him to stand up in front of his peers in a court, on record, and take the blame for everything that happened, but I don't blame him," said Phipps.

Phipps was understandably bitter about her arrest and indictment, but rather than complain and do nothing, she is using her experience to work for change.

"I'm working on my way to law school," Phipps said.

Katie currently works for an attorney who knows a little something about getting people out of jail who have been wrongfully accused.

She is using her position at Jeff Blackburn's office to further her agenda. 

"There's a lot of things that I saw that need to be fixed in this state.  Not just in this case, but just observations of sitting in jail in general.  We need a public defender's office so bad," said Phipps.

The night of Robin's murder changed Katie's life in more ways than one. That was also the night she met the man she would eventually agree to marry.

Ernie Lopez would turn out to be one of Katie's alibis that night, but because of his troubled past, he did not want anything to do with her troubles.

Ernie had been convicted of sexually assaulting a child who died in 2000. His conviction was eventually overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

He would plead guilty to a lesser charge and was released from prison, but because of his plea deal on the lesser charge he avoided any controversy, including the arrest of Katie, his future fiance'.

It was after Katie was released from jail that Ernie realized they had something in common.

"It's kind of hard to talk to somebody you know for me that I would meet or whatever, and they couldn't get it and she kind of got it," said Lopez.

"He knew how to overcome it and he had to teach me how to do it.  So, it just made the relationship much closer," said Phipps.

"Being there for her has helped her in that way.  Just kind of trying to lift her up, and she's lifted me up too," continued Lopez.

A date has not been set yet. Katie hopes to finish school before they take the plunge.

While Katie does not hold any animosity toward the Randall County DA, the same cannot be said for the county sheriff's office.

She holds them responsible for the arrest and indictment. In particular, Sgt. Allen Mongold who led the investigation.

Katie also said she is more concerned about Robin Spielbauer and her children rather than the events that led to her arrest and eventual exoneration.


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