But in statements to homicide detectives, which were read yesterday in court, the two defendants offered remarkably simple motives for battering the boy: they were fighting.
They described how the quarreling started with Freddy Adams and a few of his pals "talking junk." The junk escalated to harsh words, bottle- and rock-throwing and taunts of "Come on! Come on!" before it ended with Adams separated from his group and set upon by his rivals, who killed him, authorities said.
Yesterday's preliminary hearing ended with Municipal Judge James M. DeLeon ordering John Aitkins, of Mascher Street near Montgomery Avenue, and Thomas Nilan, of Wilt Street near Front, tried on charges of murder, conspiracy and possessing an instrument of crime. A third defendant, Nicholas Rios, 16, of Mutter Street near Montgomery, had already been ordered tried. Rios made no statement to police.
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said the killing stemmed
from rivalry between a group of youths from Towey Playground, at Howard and Berks streets, in Kensington, and Kensington Recreation Center, known as Newts Playground, at Frankford Avenue and Berks Street, in Fishtown.
Homicide Detective Patricia Brennan testifed that when she asked Nilan why he beat Freddy Adams, he answered: "I guess because we were fighting earlier in the day. We wanted to hurt him. We just wanted to scare him and hurt him a little bit. When they catch us, they do the same thing."
Nilan admitted hitting Adams a few times with a pipe "in the mid- section," but said somebody else hit him "13 or 14 times" and a third person kicked him repeatedly.
"Everybody hit him a couple of times" before a police siren scared them away, he told police.
John Aitkins told Detective Stephen Buckly a more complex story that began with Adams and his pals crashing a beer and whiskey party near the railroad tracks.
After some rock- and bottle-throwing, the battle broke up. A short time later, though, Freddy Adams and about 20 of his pals cursed Aitkins and his pals, taunted them and fled into the railroad tracks, said Aitkins.
His statement continues: "Then Freddie Adams was in the El stop. He was trying to hide on us. We kept chasing his friends in the railroads. We all came back out. Freddie Adams came swinging at me. He had a white pipe, the same pipe I hit him with.
"He had it first. We were both pulling back and forth on it. And as I was pulling and he was pulling on it, he poked me with a screwdriver in my right hand and I let go of the pipe.
After a struggle, Aitkins said he wrested back the pipe and walloped Adams in the knee as the other defendant, Rios, pummeled Adams "from the waist up."
Asked why he beat him, Aikens said, "Because he poked me with a screwdriver."