Court docs: Inmate faces attempted murder charge after pouring boiling water on prisoner in soap dispute

Phillip L. Sadler

Phillip L. Sadler

NEW CASTLE, Ind. – A dispute over soap led an inmate to pour boiling water on another prisoner, badly burning the man.

The inmate—Phillip L. Sadler, 50—faces an attempted murder charge. Sadler, known in the facility as “Dr. Phil,” is serving a 30-year sentence in a rape case from Marion County. The attempted murder charge carries a maximum 40-year sentence.

According to court documents, the attack happened on May 31. Sadler had allowed the other inmate, Travis Holley, 23, to borrow a container of liquid soap. When Holley didn’t immediately return it upon Sadler’s request around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., Sadler became upset. Holley then retrieved the liquid soap and gave it back to him.

According to Holley, Sadler confronted him at breakfast and said Holley had “disrespected him” by failing to immediately return the soap. Holley went back to sleep after breakfast. He woke up when Sadler poured boiling water mixed with soap on him, court documents said.

Sadler then punched and kicked Holley, according to a third inmate who witnessed the attack. Holley ran into the bathroom hoping to pour cold water from the shower on his burns; Sadler slammed his head against a bathroom wall, court documents said.

Sadler told investigators he heated the water up in a pair of commissary bowls and then transferred it to a jug he had from cleaning the bathroom. He mixed in soap because he heard another inmate tell him that would “cause the skin to peel,” court documents said.

Sadler said he got “caught up in his emotions” and also told police he had “been thinking about killing someone.” He originally wanted to stab Holley in the eye, but he told investigators he didn’t have anything to stab him with. He considered using a pencil before deciding to pour boiling water on him, he said.

Holley told police he didn’t have any issues with Sadler before the attack; the two played cards together in the past but Holley knew Sadler only by his prison nickname, “Dr. Phil.” He suffered significant burns and a cut over his eye. His skin had been peeling, but he was healing when investigators interviewed him about two weeks after the attack.

Holley said he feared for his life and believed Sadler “would have killed him” if he hadn’t been able to leave the bathroom and find a guard.

Sadler has since been transferred to Westville Correctional Facility.

He was sentenced in a 2013 attack after attacking an inmate at Putnamville Correctional Facility. As a result of that case, Sadler received an additional six-year sentence.

Holley is serving a six-year sentence in a child molestation case out of Huntington County.