Jury begins deliberating car crash case Wednesday

Posted: May 23, 2012

A PHILADELPHIA JURY Wednesday begins deliberating the degree of guilt of two men charged in the deaths of three children and a young mother killed by a speeding car that jumped a Feltonville sidewalk minutes after the defendants committed an armed robbery in June 2009.

The trial of Donta Craddock, 21, and Ivan Rodriguez, 23, concluded in Common Pleas Court Tuesday with the jury hearing from the mothers and a grandmother of the victims, from a wheelchair-bound Craddock and closing arguments from the case’s attorneys.

Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy told the jurors that the defendants must be convicted of four counts of second-degree murder because the unbroken chain of events that they put in motion June 10, 2009, by robbing a man at gunpoint of his motorcycle led to Craddock’s car crash just 1.7 miles away, at the corner of 3rd and Annsbury streets.

Although Rodriguez had driven home on the stolen bike and was not at the crash scene, Conroy said that he was just as guilty. The longtime friends hatched the conspiracy to steal the motorcycle to get money to get a boot off Rodriguez’s truck, and they drove to the robbery scene on Rising Sun Avenue in a car that belonged to the mother of Rodriguez’s girlfriend, Conroy reminded the jury.

“If you want the benefits and advantages [of committing a robbery], you have to accept the consequences and responsibilities,” Conroy said.

Craddock, who was paralyzed from the waist down in the crash, and his attorney, Michael Farrell, told the jury that the robbery and crash were separate crimes. Craddock should therefore be convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, not murder, Farrell said.

“The commonwealth simply can’t handle the truth that the robbery and these inexplicably tragic deaths are not related,” Farrell said.

Craddock said that he left the robbery scene believing he had not been followed. By the time Police Officer Abraham Matos Wild tried to pull him over on Roosevelt Boulevard near 3rd Street, Craddock said, he was thinking about the warrant for his arrest for not returning to the Summit Academy juvenile placement facility that April, after a home break.

Craddock said that he sped up to avoid being sent back to the facility where he did not like the treatment, not because of the robbery.

“Being paralyzed and being locked up three years — I didn’t mean to hit those kids,” Craddock said. “It’s not like I woke up and said, ‘Let me run these four people over.’ I would trade my life for theirs if I could.”

He said that he did not remember the crash, spent three weeks in a coma afterward and has limited use of his left arm.

Rania Major-Trunfio, Rodriguez’s attorney, told the jury that her client has taken responsibility for the robbery and should be found guilty of it and related charges, but not guilty of murder or manslaughter. n

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

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