Case dropped; new suspect in child's death Case dropped in child's shooting death

Posted: May 23, 2007

It lasted little more than a minute: The murder case against Kevin Felder, 25, in the September shooting of 5-year-old Casha Rivers was dropped yesterday.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office admitted it had prosecuted the wrong man. But now, prosecutors said, they have the right one.

Navy Seaman Noel Garcia, 23, was arrested Monday in Norfolk, Va., and was expected to be extradited to Philadelphia, his home town, authorities said. A Navy spokeswoman said Garcia had been assigned to naval support duties in Norfolk and had been in the Navy for 4 1/4 years.

On May 21, 2006, four months before Casha was killed, Garcia was arrested and charged with illegal gun possession and related offenses. He posted bail four days later. That case remains pending.

While Felder sat in jail, charged with Casha's death, Garcia was arrested March 5 in Philadelphia and again charged with illegal gun possession. He posted bail and was out the next day. That case also remains pending.

Meanwhile, on April 27, Felder was stabbed behind his right ear at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center, prison spokesman Robert Eskind said.

"That's a dangerous situation: To be in jail; to be known as a baby killer," said Kimberly Carter-Ford, 37, Casha's aunt.

Felder was a close friend of Casha's father, Charles Rivers, and her uncle Lawrence Rivers, 36, who helped Felder turn himself in when he was identified in the media as a suspect in the child's death.

Though Felder has been, as Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner said, "exonerated" in this case, he faces charges in two other shooting cases.

All but one of the charges in a March 21, 2006, shooting were dropped last month but then reinstated.

Felder's attorney, William R. Spade Jr., said he expected that case to be dismissed or for his client to be acquitted.

Spade was unfamiliar with the details of a 2005 shooting case that remains pending.

Felder was charged in both shootings after turning himself in. He had served jail time on earlier drug-dealing convictions.

At 2:13 p.m. yesterday, a special hearing was commenced in the case of the Commonwealth v. Kevin Felder.

Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann said that, based on additional investigation, he wanted to drop the case.

At 2:14 p.m., Lerner granted the motion.

Lerner then spoke briefly, asking the media, in reporting on the mistake, to consider the reinvestigation prosecutors launched when they began to doubt Felder was the killer.

Outside the courthouse, McCann told reporters, "It's a human system and sometimes mistakes are made."

The Rivers family said they told police Felder didn't shoot Casha, and as early as last October they alleged that Garcia was the real shooter.

"I was getting in touch with everyone I could and it seemed like nobody was listening," Carter-Ford said.

She said Casha's mother, Alicia Corley, was happy police had arrested Garcia and sad that Felder was jailed.

Casha was in an Oldsmobile her mother was driving on a Sunday morning in Strawberry Mansion when a bullet hit her in the back. She was pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital.

The shooting was the result of a drug feud and Casha was not the target.

At Felder's preliminary hearing, four prosecution witnesses recanted their original statements implicating him. Authorities said that suggested witnesses were "going south" because they were intimidated.

As it turned out, they were telling the truth.

When Casha was shot, Felder was in Rhawnhurst in the far Northeast, his attorney said.

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.

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