Police accuse man of endangering homicide victim’s grandchild

9:53 a.m. Friday, Dec. 4, 2015 Local

In the course of investigating the death of Phillip Liberty, a 75-year-old man killed in his Northwest Austin home last month, Austin police have charged a man with endangering Liberty’s grandson.

Liberty, a retiree who lived in a gated community, followed a strict daily routine that included taking his 2-year-old grandson to visit with a neighbor every morning before dropping the child off at day care center, an arrest affidavit said.

So when Liberty didn’t bring the child over to visit on the morning of Nov. 19, the neighbor called the police. Later that day, officers found Liberty in the garage of the home and notified homicide detectives, the affidavit said.

The affidavit went on to state the following:

Detectives found evidence that Liberty’s body had been moved into the garage after being shot and killed inside his home on Las Ventanas Drive. Police also believe that someone cleaned and altered the area in the home where he was killed.

When police went to the child’s day care, they spoke with a teacher and assistant director who said that on the previous day, a man they had never met before picked up the child.

Staff had photocopied the man’s driver’s license, which indicated it was Irwin Pentland, 46, who had taken the child.

Police went to Pentland’s house and he volunteered to be interviewed by the homicide unit. But before he left, he told his wife, “Don’t tell them anything,” the affidavit said.

Pentland told police that Liberty had asked him to pick up the child from the day care the day before police found Liberty’s body.

Pentland at first said that he had picked up Liberty’s grandson, took the child back to Liberty’s house but found it empty. He then grabbed some child care supplies and took the child to his South Austin home, he told police.

But when investigators asked Pentland if his wife was surprised by him bringing a child home, police said Pentland changed his story.

He told police he never took the 2-year-old home; instead, he took the child to the home of Pentland’s mother, who wasn’t in town.

Pentland admitted to police he didn’t tell his wife he was caring for Liberty’s grandson. He told investigators he would leave the child alone for multiple periods, wait until his wife fell asleep, go over to his mother’s home and return before his wife woke up.

Police searched Pentland’s mother’s home and found numerous toxic chemicals and other items that might pose a danger to a 2-year-old, according to the affidavit.

Austin police declined to comment on whether Pentland is a suspect in Liberty’s murder. The two had met seven years ago in a support group, and Pentland said he met with Liberty the day before his body was discovered to talk about a proposed business deal, the affidavit said.

Police have charged Pentland with abandoning or endangering a child. Pentland was in the Travis County Jail on Thursday with bail set at $200,000.