Steve White & Phillip Rouss [Metal Business] Forensic Files Case Study

Summary of Metal Business Forensic Files Case

FieldCase Information
Date of Incident1994-1995 (Poisoning occurred over a period)
Region and LocationBartlett, Tennessee
Forensic Files CaseMetal Business (Season 7, Episode 24)
VictimPhillip E. Rouss (Phil Rouss, Jr)
SuspectsSteve A. White
CulpritSteve A. White
Type of CrimeAttempted Murder, Theft, Sales Tax Violations
Modus OperandiSlow poisoning with arsenic and mercury
Forensic EvidenceArsenic and mercury in victim’s system, makeshift lab, poisons in jar, hair analysis, financial documents, life insurance policy
Forensic Techniques UsedToxicology testing, financial forensics, hair analysis, handwriting analysis
Charged ForFirst-degree attempted murder, theft, sales tax violations
Punishment31 years in prison
Where is NowTennessee Prison

Phillip Rouss, a passionate vintage car restorer, opened K&P, an antique car restoration shop in Bartlett, Tennessee. Soon business flourished and Rouss’s friends also became partners.

Just two months later, he became seriously ill. He lost 30 pounds and suffered from numbness and cognitive issues. Doctors ran a battery of tests but couldn’t find the cause.

Steve White, Phil’s best friend and business partner, took over the business who was known to have 50% of K&P shares.

Phillip Rouss with his friend and business partner Steve White

Meanwhile, with time, Phil’s condition got worse. He feared he had Alzheimer’s. Soon, he suspected that he was being poisoned. So, he went to the Bartlett Police Department.

The police were skeptical. Even Phil’s family thought he was exaggerating. 

Phil’s health kept getting worse. 

Soon, Phil found some financial problems in the business. There were three checks for $12,200, $5,500, and $6,000. There were bounced checks. Phil also got to know that Steve has a 98% stake in his company making him the decision-maker. In addition, Steve had a $100,000 life insurance policy on Phil’s life.

In suspicion of poisoning, Phil consulted Dr. Kevin Marigian, a forensic toxicologist. He ran some toxicology tests for heavy metals.

And the result came out to be positive for arsenic and mercury in Phil’s system. Now, the case has turned to be poisoning so the police get involved.

Now, all fingers were at Steve. Phil remembered there was a pattern of his sickness. He gets sick after a few days when he eats meals with Steve. 

Steve was a trained chemist and high school teacher. This gave him access to heavy metals.

Reconstruction of Events. Phil’s hair shaft was cut and using ICP forensic technique analyzed to determine when he was poisoned.

A hair test showed poisoning. Police searched Steve’s home and found a makeshift lab. 

They even found traces of mercury and arsenic metal in a jar labeled baking powder. 

This all ends for Steve. He was arrested and charged with attempted murder.

The trial began. The prosecution showed Steve’s $89,000 credit card debt which was considered the primary motive to kill Phil.

Finally, the jury found Steve guilty of first-degree attempted murder, theft, and two counts of violating the sales tax law. He got 31 years in prison.

Who was Phillip Rouss? His Early Life?

Who was Phillip Rouss

Phil Rouss was a man who loved vintage cars. He admired their history and beauty. His passion led him to leave his sales job and open K&P, an antique car restoration shop in Bartlett, Tennessee. Restoring vintage cars was his calling, and he blended creativity with technical skill. Here’s his story:

Career Shift, and Business Success

  • From Salesman to Restorer: Phil left his sales job.
  • Opened K&P: He started an antique car restoration shop in Bartlett, Tennessee.
  • Immediate Success: Phil’s business took off quickly.
  • Partnership with Steve White: He teamed up with his best friend.
  • Expansion: Other friends joined in.

Illness Strikes: Symptoms, Medical Mystery, and Business Operations During Illness

  • Sudden Illness: Phil became seriously ill.
  • Symptoms: Weight loss, energy loss, digestion issues, numbness.
  • Doctors were puzzled by his condition which was getting worse.
  • Fear of Alzheimer’s: Phil’s even started to forget things.

Business Operations During Illness

  • Steve Takes Over: Steve White managed the business.
  • 98% Ownership: Steve owned most of K&P.
  • Suspicion of Poisoning: Phil feared someone wanted to kill him and even requested an autopsy if he died.
  • Discovery of Financial Improprieties: Phil found bounced checks and misuse of company funds. He also discovered a life insurance policy on his life.

Who was Steve White? His Punishment?

Who was Steve White His Punishment

Steve White was Phillip Rouss’s best friend and business partner. He was a trained chemist and a high school chemistry teacher. Steve joined Phil’s antique car restoration business, K&P, and became a 98% owner without informing Phil.

Charges and Defense

Steve White was arrested and charged with attempted murder. The defense claimed the evidence was circumstantial and argued that there was no solid proof.

Prosecution’s Case

The prosecution built a strong case against Steve. They focused on:

  • Motive of Financial Gain: Steve had a life insurance policy on Phil’s life. He also had significant debt.
  • Testimonies from Waitresses: Witnesses noticed Steve’s strange behavior.
  • Evidence of Debt: Steve had over $89,000 in credit card debt.

Verdict and Sentencing

The jury found Steve White guilty. The charges were:

  • First-degree attempted murder
  • Theft
  • Sales tax violations

Steve was sentenced to 31 years in prison.

Reasons why Steve White tried to Kill his Best Friend Phil Rouss?

Reason 1: Financial Gain from Life Insurance

  • Life Insurance Policy: White had a $100,000 life insurance policy on Phil Rouss’s life.
  • Beneficiary: Steve was the beneficiary.
  • Financial Incentive: If Phil died, Steve would get a large sum of money.

This financial gain was a key reason for Steve’s plot.

Reason 2: Control Over the Business

  • Ownership: Steve owned 98% of K&P, the antique car restoration business.
  • Complete Control: Eliminating Phil would give him total control.

Steve’s desire for control can be a driving factor.

Reason 3: Covering Up Financial Improprieties

  • Financial Fraud: Steve was involved in bounced checks and misuse of company funds.
  • Cover-Up: Killing Phil would hide these activities.
  • Fear of Exposure: He wanted to avoid legal trouble.

Steve’s need to cover up fraud added to his motivation.

Reason 4: Escaping Debt through Business Profits

  • Credit Card Debt: Steve had over $89,000 in debt.
  • Business Profits: Full control over the business would help pay off the debt.

Steve’s debt and desire for financial relief contributed to his decision.

Read More: Patrick Walsh & Pamela Sweeney [Flower Power] Forensic Files Case Study

Forensic Evidence Against Steve White in Metal Business Forensic Files Case

Evidence TypeLocation Where It Was FoundSignificance in the Case
Arsenic and MercuryPhil’s SystemIndicated poisoning; matched substances found in Steve’s home.
Makeshift Lab with Mercury & ArsenicSteve White’s HomeContained traces of mercury and arsenic
PoisonsJar labeled “Baking Powder” in Steve’s HomeSame poisons found in Phil’s system; direct evidence of Steve’s intent.
Hair AnalysisPhil’s Hair SampleRevealed a history of poisoning; corroborated Phil’s symptoms.
Financial DocumentsBusiness RecordsShowed bounced checks and misuse of funds
Life Insurance PolicyInsurance Records$100,000 policy on Phil’s life with Steve as beneficiary
Envelope with Toxic MetalsHidden behind electrical panel in car restoration officeContained traces of arsenic, antimony, mercury, and lead.
Handwriting Analysis of envelopeHandwritten LetterMatched Steve’s handwriting; linked him to letter

Forensic Experts and Investigators in Case

Investigator/ExpertRole in the Case
DET. Doug Bailey, Bartlett PoliceConducted the initial investigation, collected evidence, and made the arrest.
James M. Lammey, JR, ProsecutorCharged Steve White
Dr. Kevin S. Merigian, Forensic ToxicologistConducted toxicology tests, identified arsenic and mercury in Phil’s system.
Terri C. Gray, ChemistPerform ICP test on Phil’s hair

Forensic Techniques Used in the Forensic Files Metal Business Case

Forensic Techniques Used in the Forensic Files Metal Business Case

1. Heavy Metals Test from Hair Sample

Instrumentation Used: Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) Test

Procedure: The ICP test is used to detect the presence of heavy metals in a sample. The following are the steps involved in ICP testing:

  1. Prepare the liquid sample.
  2. Inject the sample into a plasma flame.
  3. Atomize and ionize the sample within the flame.
  4. Analyze the emitted light with a spectrometer.
  5. Detect and quantify the metal elements present in the sample.

Significance in the Case: The ICP test was applied to Phil’s urine and hair samples. The ICP test revealed the presence of arsenic and mercury in Phil’s system, indicating poisoning.

The hair analysis further provided a historical record of exposure, showing traces of mercury and arsenic at different times.

Similar Case: Norton Sister, Olgie and Leita Nobles & Tim Scoggin [Penchant for Poison] Forensic Files Case

2. Heavy Metal Test From White’s House

  • Technique Used: General Laboratory test including Reinsch test for arsenic,
  • Introduction and Technique: The analysis of substances found in Steve White’s makeshift lab involved identifying various chemicals and substances.
  • Significance in the Case: Traces of mercury and arsenic were found in a jar labeled “baking powder” in Steve’s home. This directly linked the substances found in Phil’s system to Steve’s possession.

Similar Case: Bio-Attack [Forensic Files] Rajneeshee and Anand Sheela Case Study

3. Handwriting Analysis

  • Technique Used: Forensic Document Examination
  • Introduction and Technique: This technique involves the comparison of known handwriting samples with questioned samples to determine authorship.
  • Significance in the Case: An envelope found hidden behind the electrical panel in the car restoration office contained handwriting that was similar to Steve White’s. This evidence further implicated Steve in the attempted murder.

My Thoughts on Steve White Case

Steve White’s case is an example of a case where people do terrible things because of greed.

Steve’s careful plan to use his chemistry knowledge to poison Phil is scary.

He wasn’t just Phil’s business partner; he was a neighbor, a friend, and a high school chemistry teacher. His role as an educator makes his actions even more shocking.

Teachers are often seen as role models, guiding the next generation.

The impact of Steve White’s actions wasn’t limited to Phil. It reverberated through two families, causing pain, distrust, and heartbreak.

The betrayal of trust, especially by someone so close, leaves lasting scars that can take years, if not a lifetime, to heal.

It reminds us that sometimes the people we need to watch out for the most are those closest to us.

At last, Phil’s story is both inspiring and tragic. He followed his passion but faced betrayal. His love for vintage cars, his success, and his sudden illness are a reminder, “Trust is fragile. Dreams are precious.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my views, or do you see things differently? Let me know in the comment section.

General FAQs

How did Steve White poison Phil Rouss?

Steve White was a chemistry teacher and had good knowledge about the actions of heavy metals (arsenic and mercury) as poisons. He administered these toxins in Phil’s food, coffee, and beer. This was the reason why Phil became seriously ill.

What was Steve White’s punishment?

Steve White was found guilty of first-degree attempted murder, theft, and sales tax violations. He was sentenced to 31 years in prison.

Was Steve White’s role as a teacher significant in the case?

Yes, Steve White’s role as a high school chemistry teacher was significant. His knowledge of chemistry enabled him to execute the poisoning plan. His betrayal was not just to Phil but to every student he taught, tarnishing the sacred role of a teacher.


  • Watch the full episode of Metal Business on YouTube.
  • State of Tennessee v. Steve A. White, W2000-01148-CCA-R3-CD [CourtListner]
  • Salt’ in My Beer: The Trial of Steve White [TBA]
  • Encyclopedia of Forensic Science, Third Edition By Suzanne Bell [Book]

1 thought on “Steve White & Phillip Rouss [Metal Business] Forensic Files Case Study”

  1. Bruce C. Higgins

    Thirty-one years for a diabolical murder like the one Steve White was convicted of committing against Phil Rouse, who trusted Steve as his best friend? My God, that’s not justice. I saw this case profiled on Forensic Files, and saw in the notes after the episide that both men have passed away, Phil Rouse from lung cancer, Steve White from natural causes while serving his sentence. But I return to my disgust for the 31 year sentence imposed on Steve White. In my opinion, anyone who commits a murder like that by slow poisoning should get a sentence of life imprisonment at hard labor. The imposition of hard labor for prison sentences was for a long time reserved for really heinous crimes. It fell out of favor about fifty years ago, when I was in my early twenties, as being “cruel and unusual punishment.” Really? Well, I say that people who kill by slow poisoning are imposing cruel and unusual punishment on their innocent victims, and that is a hideous way to murder someone, and it deserves a hideously severe punishment.

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