Cop speaks of ‘mangled little bodies’ from crash scene

Posted: May 18, 2012

DEFENSE attorneys for two men charged with murdering four people with a car speeding away from an armed robbery persuaded a judge Thursday to bar the most graphic death-scene photos from the trial.

The photos of the severed limbs and crushed bones of the three children and young mother killed on the sidewalk at 3rd and Annsbury streets on June 10, 2009, would serve no purpose other than to inflame jurors’ passions, said attorneys for Ivan Rodriguez, 23, and Donta Craddock, 21, who are charged with four counts of second-degree murder.

Common Pleas Judge Lillian H. Ransom’s suppression of the photos, in the end, turned out to be only a small victory for the defense after the day’s first witness took the stand.

In vivid detail, police Officer Abraham Matos Wild, who arrived at the scene moments after the crash, recalled the carnage that Craddock caused when the Pontiac Trans Am he was driving slammed the victims. He spoke of “mangled little bodies,” the terror and agony of the victims’ survivors and of a young mother trying to lift the twisted car off her dead 7-year-old daughter.

“There was yelling going on and screaming, but you could not make out what they were saying until afterward,” Matos Wild testified. “They were saying children were trapped under the car.”

Several times, Matos Wild stopped and sobbed.

A female juror removed her eyeglasses to wipe away tears, while a somber-faced male juror rubbed his chin contemplatively.

Killed on that Feltonville sidewalk that evening were Remedy Smith, two days from her first birthday; her cousin, Aaliyah Griffin, 6; and their friend and neighbor, Gina Marie Rosario, 7. Remedy’s mother, LaToya Smith, 22, died the next day.

Matos Wild said that after a motorist told him that the driver of a passing silver car had just participated in stealing a motorcycle at gunpoint on Rising Sun Avenue, he followed the Trans Am being driven by Craddock south on Roosevelt Boulevard, lost sight of the car when Craddock turned left on 3rd Street and saw it again after the crash.

The officer confiscated a .357 Magnum handgun from Craddock as he lay in the street, paralyzed from the waist down.

Even though Rodriguez drove the stolen motorcycle home after he and Craddock committed the robbery and was not at the crash scene, both men are guilty of second-degree murder — or felony murder — because they set in motion an unbroken chain of events that resulted in the four deaths, Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy told the jury Wednesday.

Defense attorney Rania Maria Major-Trunfio said that her client, Rodriguez, is guilty only of the robbery because that’s the only crime he conspired to commit. Craddock’s defense atttorney, Michael Farrell, said that he is guilty of no more than involuntary manslaughter or vehicular homicide because he crashed trying to get away from a cop who he thought was going to arrest him on an outstanding warrant. He did not know that the cop knew of the robbery, Farrell told the jury. n

Contact Mensah M. Dean at 215-568-8278 or deanm@phillynews.com.

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