MAYS LANDING — When Lashaun Smith called 911 in the early morning hours of Nov. 3, 2017, he said he needed police “for what I did,” adding he and his girlfriend were bleeding, according to court documents.

Smith, 37, of Egg Harbor Township, stood in Atlantic County Superior Court on Thursday charged with beating his 28-year-old girlfriend, Sarah Phillips, to death with a hammer in their Zion Road home while their four children were there.

During the under-two-minute court appearance, attorneys discussed the admissibility of Smith’s statement to police, as well as a possible plea deal with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.

First Assistant Prosecutor Cary Shill, who represents the state in the matter, said Smith’s public defender, Stephen Funk, had made a plea offer before requesting a three-week adjournment.

Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr. granted the request for plea negotiations, setting Nov. 29 as the final pretrial conference. He has openings in mid to late January to schedule a trial, should a deal not be reached, DeLury added.

Funk said outside the courtroom he could not disclose the details of the offer.

Shill and Funk conferenced in chambers before the appearance, where the “admissibility of the defendant’s out-of-court statements to police” was decided, DeLury said.

However, the decision was not announced in open court.

“It was me,” Smith told police dispatch at 5:04 a.m. after they asked him what had caused Phillips to bleed, according to the affidavit of probable cause. Before police arrived, Smith had “cut his own wrists with a razor in a failed attempt at suicide.”

Police found Phillips’ body in the back bedroom with blunt force trauma to her head, according to the affidavit.

After going to the emergency room for treatment, he was taken to the Prosecutor’s Office, where he confessed, according to the document, “that he hit Phillips in the head with a hammer because she had been seeing another man and he didn’t want to share her.”

Smith was indicted Dec. 5 on murder and weapons charges, and pleaded not guilty during a post-indictment arraignment later that month. At that appearance, Judge John Rauh ordered no contact with Smith’s children, who are in the custody of Phillips’ mother, Paula Modelle.

Modelle was in court Thursday but left the courtroom quickly after the appearance.

Smith was remanded to the Atlantic County jail.

Contact: 609-272-7241 Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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