Gary Triano: Big Explosion Makes Ex-Wife a Killer

My previous blog presented the case of Eric Hainstock. Eric, a high school freshman, shot and killed the principal of Weston High School in Wisconsin. This week’s crime takes us to suburban Tucson, Arizona, where in 1996, Pam Phillips orchestrated the murder of her ex-husband, Gary Triano.

Gary Triano

Gary Triano lived most of his life as a resident of Tucson, Arizona. He attended high school and the University of Arizona in Tucson. After obtaining a law degree, He changed course and forged a career in real estate development. Gary became successful enough to be worth several million dollars.

Gary Triano (David Bean Photography/CBS News)
Gary Triano (David Bean Photography/CBS News)

In 1986, Gary Triano was divorced and an extremely eligible bachelor. He met and married Pamela Anne Phillips, a socialite, and former model. Pam also sold real estate. The new couple welcomed two children in addition to the two from Gary’s first marriage.

Pamela Phillips and Gary Triano (David Bean Photography/CBS News)
Pamela Phillips and Gary Triano (David Bean Photography/CBS News)

The happy times didn’t last. Gary and Pamela divorced—by all accounts acrimoniously—in 1993. Furthermore, Gary filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He claimed to owe $40 million from failed business ventures related to Indian casinos.

The Death of Gary Triano

On November 1, 1996, Gary Triano planned to play golf at La Paloma Country Club in Catalina Foothills, a suburb of Tucson. In the parking lot, a tremendous explosion ripped his Lincoln Continental apart. Someone placed a pipe bomb underneath the car’s passenger seat. The blast flung pieces of the vehicle over 100 yards away, some landing in the La Paloma swimming pool.

The Lincoln Continental after the pipe bomb exploded (Pima County Sheriff's Department)
The Lincoln Continental after the pipe bomb exploded (Pima County Sheriff’s Department)

Investigators took a long, hard look at Gary’s ex-wife, Pamela Phillips. They discovered she took out a $2 million life insurance policy on Gary not long before his death The policy named the couple’s two minor children beneficiaries (the insurance company paid the claim in 1997). What’s more, it was no secret their divorce three years earlier had been bitter. But Pamela moved to Aspen, Colorado, after the divorce and lived in Aspen at the time of Gary’s death. For that reason, and because they suspected the killing might be a mob hit, the investigation stalled.

A Solution to the Gary Triano Murder

Investigators caught a break more than a decade after Gary Triano died. When police in Aspen arrested a small-time criminal, Ronald Young, on an unrelated charge, evidence emerged linking him to Pamela Phillips. Police uncovered evidence Pamela agreed to pay Young $400,000 to kill Gary. And detectives also learned of recorded conversations between Pamela and Young where the two discussed the conspiracy.

Ronald Young (Pima County Sheriff's Department)
Ronald Young (Pima County Sheriff’s Department)

Ronald Young stood trial in 2010. The jury convicted him of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and the judge sentenced him to two life terms without parole.

Extradited to Arizona, the court found Pamela Phillips incompetent to stand trial in December 2011. However, she finally faced a jury in October of the following year. After a seven-week trial, her jury also found her guilty of murder. The judge sentenced her to life without parole.


Today (2022), Pamela Phillips and Ronald Young reside in Arizona Department of Corrections facilities. Pamela is at the Perryville complex in Goodyear, while Young is at the facility in Tucson.

Pamela Phillips (L) and Ronald Young (R) prison photos (Arizona Department of Corrections)
Pamela Phillips (L) and Ronald Young (R) prison photos (Arizona Department of Corrections)

You can read more about the Gary Triano murder in Kerrie Droban’s 2012 book, A Socialite Scorned.

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