Philadelphia Criminal Law News

December 2010 Archives

Dennis Powell Finally Pays Restitution For His Crimes

The Philadelphia Daily News reported Dennis Powell, a former fugitive with an arrest record, finally paid restitution for a 20-year-old case involving theft and forgery. Powell had been Philadelphia's district director of the state Board and Probation and Parole but resigned two months ago after the board found out about his past criminal record.

Dennis Powell's case occurred in the late 1980s. He was a manager for a loan company known as ITT Financial Corporation, which had offices in Sunbury and Scranton. Powell was accused of creating loans to fake people and embezzling loan payments from ITT customers. Authorities claimed he had stolen nearly $5,300 from the company.

Norma Gray Arrested For Stealing Co-workers' Tips

Philadelphia local Norma Jean Gray, 53, was charged five days before Christmas for stealing her co-workers tips. Gray, an employee of Harrah's Chester Downs Casino and Racetrack, allegedly embezzled nearly $3,400 worth of tips and was even caught on video of committing the theft.

Police officials said Norma Gray had taken $2,804 in tips from Harrah's cashier area and was planning on distributing the money to 75 cashiers who would trade in customers' gaming chips for cash. Gray admitted in interviews to performing the crime and to also stealing a total of $600 in October and November.

Diane Corado Still Missing After Abduction

Police officials announced Bucks County local Diane Corado, 57, has still not been found since her abduction on December 19. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, authorities claim Kenneth L. Patterson, Corado's ex-boyfriend, kidnapped the victim from her Fairless Hills apartment after beating and threatening to kill her.

A police affidavit revealed Kenneth Patterson, 48, had struck Diane Corado with a pipe and dragged her across the floor, pulling Corado by her hair. He had also held a kitchen knife over the victim and told her "not to move or he would kill her." Then Patterson hit Corado's arm with the pipe, which left her incapable of using her left arm.

Jose Diaz Found Dead In Basement

Philadelphia police were called to investigate a fatal shooting that occurred on Bleigh Avenue in Northeast Philly. WPVI-TV Philadelphia reported Jose Diaz, 33, was found dead in his home on Christmas Eve after having been shot in the back of his head twice. Authorities found Diaz's body with a pillow placed on top of his face.

Police said Jose Diaz left early from a party with his family after receiving a phone call. His wife came home later that evening and found Diaz's body lying in their basement, and law enforcement officials pronounced him dead that evening.

Philadelphia Police Officers Kept From Testifying In Court

A police arbitration report revealed that former Philadelphia district attorney Lynne M. Abraham may have preserved a list of certain city police officers prohibited from testifying in court, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Internal Affairs unit examined the conduct of some the officers on the list and devalued them as witnesses because their credibility had been damaged.

An arbitration case involving Philadelphia officers Norma I. Vasquez and Darryl L. Braxton brought about the issue of the no-testimony list. Vasquez and Braxton were kept from testifying in court because they had arrested an undercover police officer whom they mistook as a prostitute. The Fraternal Order of Police, a Philadelphia police union, argued that the banning was an abuse of power by the D.A.

Crystal Dawejko Found Dead In Kensington

Philadelphia police officials discovered the body of a young woman in a Kensington house last week, but they have not yet determined how she died. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Crystal Dawejko, 25, was found dead inside a two-story rowhouse on C Street close to Kensington Avenue.

City records revealed Lawrence Hollman owned the house where Crystal Dawejko's body was found. Hollman, who is in his 60s, lived alone but allowed guests to stay at his place and charged them according to how long they stayed.

Casey Mahoney: Latest Kensington Victim Identified

Authorities identified the most recent victim found in Kensington to be 27-year-old Casey Mahoney. The Philadelphia Daily News reported Mahoney had received strange messages on Myspace where the unknown individual asked her questions such as, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The most eerie question asked to Mahoney, however, was "How do you want to die?"

Casey Mahoney responded, "Quickly, with no pain."

Anthony Santoro Caught Stealing Coins From Parking Meters

Conshohocken Police Sergeant Anthony Santoro was arrested this week for allegedly stealing coins from the borough's parking meters during this past year. The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office reported Santoro, a 22-year police veteran, faces charges for theft and other related offenses after trying to "obscure and conceal his actions."

Anthony Santoro was assigned in July to help out the parking enforcement when Police Chief Michael Orler noticed something strange one day. Orler saw Santoro transfer an envelope filled with coins from a police car to his personal vehicle as Santoro attempted to hide what he was doing. Orler then decided to observe Santoro's actions from July to November.

Casey Mahoney's Death Linked To Previous Kensington Murders

Philadelphia police have recently connected the death of Casey Mahoney, the latest Kensington murder victim, to the deaths of Nicole Piacentini and Elaine Goldberg. NBC Philadelphia reported DNA results on Tuesday linked the three women's deaths to the Kensington Strangler, whom Mayor Michael Nutter has referred to as a "psycho."

27-year-old Casey Mahoney was found barely clothed from the waist down and showed signs of strangulation and sexual assault. Last month, Piacentini and Goldberg's bodies were found in almost the same condition and within a mile of a half of one another. Investigators have come to believe that someone in the Kensington neighborhood likely knows the killer.

Triz Jefferies Mistaken For Kensington Strangler

Triz Jefferies, 24, was mistakenly accused of being the Kensington Strangler after fliers with his name, address, and photo were distributed across Kensington. The same flier also appeared on Facebook and was shared via text message, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. People even began gathering outside Jefferies' home, which led him to call the police for protection against any vigilante action.

Police officials escorted Triz Jefferies to the Special Victims Unit and interviewed him. He resembles the strangler's sketch, but police spokesman Lieutenant Ray Evers said Jefferies has "pretty much completely been cleared." Jefferies believes someone he may have had problems with spread his photo around Kensington in an attempt to label Jefferies as the suspect.

Tacony Suspects Found Guilty Of Murder

26-year-old Gerald Drummond and 28-year-old Robert McDowell were found guilty on Monday for first degree murder and face potential death sentences for the crime. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the two Tacony men were charged for the racially-motivated slaying of Damien Holloway, 27, and Timothy Clark, 15, in July 2007.

Testimonies from witnesses revealed that the deaths of Holloway and Clark stemmed from a dispute over race and the fact that Holloway had a child with Gerald Drummond's sister. Prosecutors said Drummond had forced the two victims to kneel on a sidewalk with their hands held behind their heads and ordered Robert McDowell to shoot the two men.

Richard Creamer Convicted Of Manufacturing Marijuana

Philadelphia lawyer Richard K. Creamer, 38, was recently convicted of conducting a large and extensive marijuana-growing operation in North Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Creamer faces a 10-year mandatory jail sentence for charges involving the conspiracy to manufacture 1,000 or more marijuana plants and maintaining a place for the manufacturing of controlled substances.

Richard Creamer had practiced corporate and real estate law in Northern Liberties. He became involved in manufacturing the drugs after he found out James Alberts, a South Philadelphia contractor, was making thousands of extra dollars every month from a marijuana business on Third and Tasker Streets.

Recent Death In Kensington May Be Linked To Previous Strangles

Authorities recently reported that the man held responsible for the deaths of Nicole Piacentini and Elaine Goldberg may have also killed the unnamed woman found dead in Kensington this past week, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. William Blackburn, the Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner, said there seemed to be "strong indications" that the cases may be connected.

The woman killed this week was 27-years-old, which is close to the ages of Piacentini and Goldberg. The other two women had been the first victims discovered after being strangled and sexually assaulted. All three women were white, found nude from the waist below, and showed indications of sexual assault.

Governor Rendell May Grant Clemency To Three Convicts

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said he is considering clemency on the life sentences of three convicts charged with murder after receiving unanimous recommendations from the state Pardons Board. Rendell announced the news at a conference and stated he would review the cases of whether Keith O. Smith, William Fultz, and Tyrone Werts.

The three prison inmates had been involved in separate killings in the mid-1970s, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The governor explained that none of the men was the "actual killer," but each was found to be an accomplice in the murders. Rendell also noted that Smith, Fultz, and Werts had all served long terms while some of the other convicts involved in the crime had already been released.

Jury Begins Deliberation On 2007 Murder Trial

Tacony men Gerald Drummond, 26, and Robert McDowell, 28, have been charged for the murder of two men in 2007. The deaths of 27-year-old Damien Holloway and 15-year-old Timothy Clark suggests the crimes were racially-motivated and generated witness intimidation, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. A Common Pleas Court jury started deliberations this week for the trial.

Timothy Clark had been working for and living with Damien Holloway, who also had a child with Gerald Drummond's sister. Gerald Drummond allegedly attacked Clark because he was "a loose end that had to be tied up" while Holloway apparently disrespected his sister.

Police Find Another Woman Dead In Kensington

Police recently found another woman dead in Kensington, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. They located her barely clothed body in a vacant lot, and her head was covered with a plastic bag. Police officers and residents alike wondered if the woman's death may have been another act of the unidentified Kensington Strangler.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey stated that "at this point in time, we really don't know." He acknowledged that investigators were speculating the same thing and said they would determine whether this recent case was "part of the pattern that's going on out here."

Three Students Robbed At Temple University

Police officials reported three Temple University Students were robbed at gunpoint midday on Monday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The university sent emails to faculty, staff, and students asking them to remain cautious and alert of their surroundings. Temple's spokesperson Ray Betzner mentioned that the school has also been "working with the Philadelphia police to increase patrols."

None of the victims were injured, but all the students reported that the attacker demanded money while holding a silver handgun. The three students were robbed separately in less than an hour, close to some of the university's dormitories. Ray Betzner said at least one of the robberies that occurred may have been done by two men.

Tyrone Wiggins Found Guilty Of Sexual Assault

In the criminal case involving Tyrone Wiggins, the former Philadelphia police officer was convicted yesterday for sexually assaulting a woman for more than 8 years. The court found that Wiggins was guilty of aggravated indecent assault, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and corruption of a minor, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Common Pleas Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd ordered that Tyrone Wiggins be kept in prison until his sentencing next March. Wiggins is subject to a maximum sentence of 22 ½ to 45 years behind bars. Tyrone Wiggins' PA criminal defense attorney Scott Sigman believes his client deserved a prison sentence less than the maximum because of his long-standing and successful career with the police force.

Robert Sturman Sentenced To Prison For Fraud

On Friday, U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick sentenced Robert Sturman, a 57-year-old con artist, to ten years behind bars for swindling nearly $4.3 million from over 50 victims. The judge also ordered that Surrick pay more than $4.2 million to compensate the losses of all the victims, reported the Philadelphia Daily News.

Robert Sturman has been held without bail since his arrest in last July after he pleaded guilty in July to charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, and interstate transportation of stolen property. Law enforcement officials said Sturman lived in different address in Montgomery and Bucks counties, luring victims into various investment schemes since November 1997 until February 2007.

Two PA Men Arrested For Assaulting SugarHouse Casino Winner

Philadelphia residents Christopher Featherstone, 22, and David Riley, 20, were arrested and face felony charges for the robbery and assault of a 26-year-old man, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The two suspects allegedly followed the 26-year-old and attacked him after he won almost $2,000 at a SugarHouse Casino near Philadelphia.

The casino's surveillance cameras caught Featherstone and Riley on the property. Police officials said the two suspects most likely heard the 26-year-old man talking on his phone about his winnings while in the bathroom. Featherstone and Riley even approached the SugarHouse winner and talked to him as he waited for a taxi outside of the casino grounds.

Teen Nathalia Rosario Cleared From Drug Charges

Police officials arrested North Philadelphia teenager Nathalia Rosario along with seven other individuals after a drug bust in November. The 13-year-old faced felony drug charges involving drug possession, criminal conspiracy, and possession with the intent to deliver. Rosario's family asserted that police had only arrested the young girl because she was wearing a pink jacket.


A police investigation report said that a youth "met with a Hispanic male wearing a pink jacket" and "handed Rosario the bundled newspaper." Authorities quickly arrested Nathalia Rosario after they identified her as the one "wearing the pink jacket". The 13-year-old and her family said police failed to mention her Miranda rights or ask her mother, Michelle Perez, if they could question Nathalia.

Daniel Clark Charged With Animal Cruelty

47-year-old Daniel Lee Clark Sr., from Clearspring, Maryland, was charged with animal cruelty for the deaths of 832 hogs at a Pennsylvania farm. A criminal complaint stated that Clark left the hogs to die after he deserted his farm in Fulton County in February 2009. A real estate agent who came to inspect the property came across the animal remains in November.

Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Gregory M. Bacher said the animals "were basically mummified" by the time they were found last month. Authorities could not determine exactly how the hogs died, but they suspect the deaths may have been caused by heat, cold, thirst, or disease.

Donte Johnson Chooses Not To Plead Guilty Yet

North Philadelphia resident Donte Johnson, 18, was charged with rape, murder, and other related offenses for the death of 20-year-old waitress Sabina O'Donnell. Johnson was expected to plead guilty today for the rape and murder in June, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the defendant hired a new PA criminal defense attorney to reevaluate his case instead.

Sabina O'Donnell was choked and beaten to death, according to law enforcement officials. They found the victim's body at the empty lot of her 4th Street apartment building, and Donte Johnson confessed to killing O'Donnell after he was arrested. The 18-year-old told police officials that he had initially planned to just steal Sabina O'Donnell's bike until the situation got out of hand.

Ernest Rayfield Gets Bail After Pleading Guilty To Manslaughter

Ernest Rayfield, an 88-year-old Navy veteran, had admitted to stabbing his wife this past summer in Delaware County Court. To the elderly man's surprise, Judge James Nilon ordered Rayfield to be released yesterday. Nilon said Rayfield may be placed under the custody of his son in West Chester as he waits for his sentencing next February for charges of voluntary manslaughter.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Rayfield had been married to his wife, Mary Agnes, for 63 years and had been taking care of her since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. At one point Rayfield said he "couldn't take it anymore" and killed his wife. Ernest Rayfield was kneeling next to her body when police officials arrived at the scene.

Fake Heiress Bari Lynn Berger Pleads Guilty To Fraud

Bari Lynn Berger, of North Carolina, was brought to a federal court in Philadelphia for stealing $1.7 million from more than 140 people. The Philadelphia Daily News reported Berger posed as an heiress to a nonexistent $2 billion estate, pretending to be the illegitimate daughter of an affluent billionaire who passed away years ago. She pleaded to one count of mail and wire fraud.

Durham local Bari Berger, 67, told her victims that her father had established certain parameters for her to inherit his estate, because he supposedly did not support her lifestyle. Berger said she had to receive basic medical care and become financially stable for her to be entitled to collect her so-called father's assets.

Woman Sexually Assaulted Inside Man's Truck In Kensington

Philadelphia police received yet another report of a sexual assault in Kensington this week. A woman was allegedly attacked inside a man's truck on Monday on Allegheny Avenue close to Frankford Avenue, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Authorities are still determining whether this case may be related to the other previous Kensington cases involving the sexual assault and strangulations of three Philadelphia women.

Police officials stated the latest victim left with a man and had gone inside his truck, where he then physically and sexually assaulted her. The woman described the assailant as a Hispanic man with a medium build and goatee and who appeared to be in his 30s or 40s. Police found that the description of the attacker was similar to that of the suspect they sought for the assault of three other victims.

Yvonne Hiller In Trial For Shooting Rampage At Kraft Foods Plant

43-year-old Yvonne Hiller was held on multiple counts of attempted murder, murder, and other related offenses after going on a shooting rampage at the Kraft Foods plant in Northeast Philadelphia. Hiller believed she was being targeted for "chemical abuse" and claimed her neighbors were putting her health at risk because they were operating a meth lab, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

No one believed her. But Yvonne Hiller was truly convinced that some sort of chemical was damaging her health, even after nearly three years of countless doctor visits. She thought her coworkers were spraying her with deer urine and confronted them about her belief. "They told me they didn't know what I was talking about," said Hiller.

Booker Wilson Sentenced To Jail For Theft

Booker T. Wilson, a former Chester Township police chief, was sentenced to 9 to 23 months in prison for charges involving theft. After working in the Delaware County Township since 2004, Wilson resigned as police chief when he pleaded guilty to allegations of receiving stolen property and forgery. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wilson had stolen an insurance check and used it as a down payment for a Cadillac Escalade.

In 2007, 49-year-old Booker Wilson worked part-time at a rehabilitation center in Chester and took $6,600 from a former resident. He pleaded guilty. Wilson's PA criminal defense lawyer John J. List asked the judge for the option to put his client under probation or home monitoring instead of serving time behind bars in consideration of the 20 years Wilson dedicated to the force.

Jeremiah Alexander Charged With Assault

Two teenagers from Upper Darby allegedly assaulted a 35-year-old man last week and kicked the victim into a coma, leaving him with a sneaker imprint on his forehead. The teens went through the man's pockets once he was knocked unconscious. Although the victim did not have any money, the assailants just stole his cell phone and quickly left the scene.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported that the 35-year-old man, who is also an Upper Darby resident, was walking home from a bar when he ran into 19-year-old Jeremiah Alexander, a 16-year-old girl, and an unidentified third man on Lamport Road. A verbal altercation may have led to the brutal attack, according to police superintendent Michael Chitwood.

Investigation On Kensington Stranglings Still Ongoing

Philadelphia police have been investigating the strangulations that occurred in the Kensington area for the past five weeks, noticing that all the victims had dealt with a drug addiction. 22-year-old Allison Edwards, the third victim found by authorities, had been sober for six months until she began using drugs again a few days before she was killed.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Allison Edwards' body was located last week in a Juniata Park apartment, north of where the other two women, Elaine Goldberg and Nicole Piacentini, were found. The city medical examiner established that Edwards had also been strangled, but investigators have not yet officially determined whether her death is connected to the cases of the two other women.

Three Women Sexually Assaulted in Spring Garden Neighborhood

Police officials have linked Danielle Brown's sexual assault case with two similar incidents involving an unknown serial groper who has been harassing women in the Spring Garden neighborhood. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, the 36-year-old Philadelphia woman was walking home along the Broad Street line when a man sexually assaulted her.

Both Danielle Brown and the assailant were waiting at a bus stop at 16th and Spring Garden streets when the man attacked her. The assailant immediately fled the scene after the attack. Prior to Brown's experience, two other women also told authorities that they were grabbed by a man in the Spring Garden area.

President Obama Grants Pardons To Nine Criminal Offenders

A PA criminal defense lawyer may describe a pardon as an act of clemency where an executive government official forgives a criminal offender and restores his or her civil rights. Presidential pardons usually happen during the holiday season, right before end of the year.

The Associated Press reported President Barack Obama granted his first presidential pardons to nine individuals convicted of criminal charges such as the destruction of coins, drug possession, and counterfeiting. The Justice Department reported Obama had received 551 petitions for pardoning during his presidency. He denied 131 petitions while 265 were closed without any action by the president.

Assault Charges Dropped For Askia Sabur

A controversial arrest involving West Philadelphia local Askia Sabur was videotaped on September 3 and posted on YouTube. The violent arrest occurred in front of a Chinese takeout restaurant on Allison Street and Landsowne Avenue, and the online video shows city officer Jimmy Leocal repeatedly striking Askia Sabur with a baton.

29-year-old Askia Sabur was charged for resisting arrest, allegedly assaulting Jimmy Leocal and his partner Donyul Williams, and other related offenses. However, the Philadelphia Daily News reported Sabur will no longer face trial on the charges for aggravated assault on Leocal because the officer was unable to testify at the defendant's preliminary hearing.

Thomas Hess Charged For Obstruction In Erica Blasberg's Suicide

Professional golfer Erica Blasberg, 25, was found dead in May at her Henderson home, located 15 miles away from the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. CBS News reported police officials found her with a plastic bag covering her head, though no foul play was suspected. Still, authorities released a misdemeanor arrest warrant for Dr. Thomas Hess, who discovered Blasberg's body and confiscated items from the scene.

The coroner's office ruled on Tuesday that Erica Blasberg's death was a result of suicide after finding "the presence of prescription drugs" in her system. In spite of this ruling, police officers still charged Thomas Hess for obstruction of justice after they found he had removed a suicide note found from Blasberg's home.

Philadelphia Criminal Law: Disturbing The Peace

Disturbing the peace (or breach of the peace) often refers to offenses such as fighting in public, bullying a student on or near school grounds, or playing extremely loud music throughout the night even after receiving a fair warning. A Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer may describe disturbing the peace as engaging in a form of disorderly conduct that endangers an individual's right to peace and tranquility.

Breach of the peace generally includes conduct or words that jeopardize the safety, health, morals and peace of the public. Offenders may face time in prison, paying a fine, or both if convicted. Disturbing the peace is generally recognized as a misdemeanor crime and falls under the category of disorderly conduct, which includes acts like letting your dog excessively bark for a long period of time or using profanity to instigate violence in public.

Jose Carrasquillo Sentenced To Prison For Rape Charges

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Ramy I. Djerassi sentenced Jose Carrasquillo, 27, with 30 to 60 years in jail for the rape of an 11-year-old Kensington girl in June 2009 and the attempted assault of a 16-year-old girl from Kensington High School. Carrasquillo had originally pleaded guilty to the charges but suddenly wanted to withdraw his plea before he was sentenced.

Jose Carrasquillo claimed he could prove his innocence if Judge Djerassi would provide only him with a lie detector, or as he called it, a "polyester-graph". Djerassi denied his request and said the guilty plea would stand. "You told me you were sorry, and I believed you," the judge said. "Now I don't know. But it doesn't matter."

Tyrone Wiggins Charged With Rape And Assault

A 25-year-old Philadelphia woman has been anticipating the day she could finally testify against the man she claims repeatedly assaulted and raped her during a period of 8 years since the age of 12. The Philadelphia Daily News reported the victim, now a city cop, accused fellow police official Tyrone Wiggins, 51, of the alleged rape and destroying her youth.

The case was brought before the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. The Internal Affairs Bureau led a two-year investigation on Tyrone Wiggins and arrested him in 2009, after the 25-year-old woman revealed to authorities what he had done to her. Wiggins was charged with aggravated indecent assault, rape, corruption of a minor, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and other related offenses.

Deric Lewis Arrested For Assaulting His Girlfriend

Four-year Philadelphia police veteran Deric Lewis was arrested after he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend during a domestic argument. Police spokesperson Lieutenant Ray Evers said Lewis and his girlfriend were involved in heated verbal dispute this past weekend. The location of where they lived was not disclosed because it is a residence where they "cohabitate."

The Philadelphia Daily News reported 30-year-old Deric Lewis is the 17th officer in the city to be arrested in a little over a year. 16 other cops have been arrested on charges involving sexual assault, murder, and other criminal offenses. A Philadelphia criminal defense attorney may provide an in-depth explanation on the criminal process and how a person is charged for a crime.