Some really stood out

Police gather evidence at a homicide scene on the 500 block of Geneva Avenue on May 23. (Alejandro A. Alverez/Staff)
Police gather evidence at a homicide scene on the 500 block of Geneva Avenue on May 23. (Alejandro A. Alverez/Staff)

Cop killed; vet slain over laptop; a stray bullet; a neglected child . . .

Posted: December 28, 2012

IN A YEAR when the city's homicide rate sits at nearly one a day, cases and numbers become a blur. Here's a look back at some of the heartbreaking killings in Philadelphia this year:

Off-duty officer slain

 

Officer Moses Walker Jr., 40, had just finished his shift at North Philadelphia's 22nd District early Aug. 18 and was on his way home when he was gunned down by two men in a botched robbery.

Walker, a 19-year veteran who worked in the district's holding cell, was remembered by fellow cops - and even by men he locked up - as a model officer who always wore a smile and treated people with respect.

"He was a quiet guy, dependable, reliable. He was well-liked by a lot of people," said 22nd District Capt. Roland Lee, who graduated from the Police Academy alongside Walker. "Everybody's in shock."

Walker was the second police officer killed on his way home from work this year, after Highway Patrol Officer Brian Lorenzo was killed in July by an alleged drunken driver as he rode his motorcycle on I-95.

After Walker's killing Aug. 18, a manhunt brought both men accused in his murder - Rafael Jones, 23, and Chancier McFarland, 19, who had fled to Alabama - into custody within eight days.

At Walker's funeral, at Lehigh Avenue's Deliverance Evangelistic Church, where Walker had served as a deacon, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told the story of two men who'd first met Walker when they were locked up and then came to a vigil after his death.

"Why?" Ramsey asked. "Because he respected them."

- Morgan Zalot

Dog-dirt death

Franklin Manuel Santana had many reasons to celebrate Feb. 14.

It was Valentine's Day, and he and his wife Raquel Borgas had a special dinner planned. The couple also had a newborn daughter, and Santana would celebrate his 48th birthday in four days.

Instead, a Tacony neighbor gunned Santana down after Santana complained about the man's frequent failure to clean up his two dogs' droppings.

Tyrirk Harris, 28, faces trial Jan. 28 for Santana's murder.

Harris' defense attorney claimed in court that Santana was drunk and threatening when he came to Harris' front door, on Torresdale Avenue near Magee. Harris fired out of fear, attorney Jack McMahon argued.

But Assistant District Attorney Deborah Watson-Stokes responded that a verbal argument did not justify deadly force.

Harris, who'd been laid off as a school-district police officer about seven months before, had a history of violence, records show. He'd been arrested in 2004 for punching his girlfriend so hard that he knocked a tooth out, according to court files. His concealed-carry gun permit also was revoked.

Neighbors said that his dogs - a Chihuahua and a German shepherd - and their droppings were a constant bother.

- Dana DiFilippo

Caught in the crossfire

 

Johnika Tiggett's mother sat in her living room last week flipping through photos of her daughter - all she has left of a young woman who became another victim of senseless gun violence.

"I miss her so much," said Debra Morgan.

Four men - Byron McDonald, 19, Anthony Palmer, 33, Roland Thompson, 36, and Rashon Wiggins, 24 - were charged in Tiggett's murder, and cops are looking for a fifth.

Early the morning after Thanksgiving, Tiggett, 25, was leaving a bar in Nicetown, a few blocks from her mother's home, with friends when, police say, the men got into a gunfight on Dennie Street near Wayne Avenue. None of them was injured, but Tiggett caught a stray bullet to the head.

Morgan recalled being awakened by her daughter's friends banging on the door.

"My heart just dropped," the mother said. "I just prayed, 'Please, don't take this one. Please.' I guess I didn't pray hard enough."

Tiggett's son, who would be 39 now, was hit by a car and killed when he was just 2.

"She got a chance to meet her big brother," the woman said. "I'm looking at it that way."  

- Morgan Zalot

Young life cut short

Brutal beatings with belts and extension cords, regular starvation and incomprehensible neglect - this was the kind of sad, tragic life that little Khalil Wimes knew.

The 6-year-old died on March 19 after his parents, Floyd Wimes and Tina Cuffie, brought his bruised, emaciated body to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The boy suffered trauma that day after Cuffie smacked him in the head, police said.

Khalil weighed just 29 pounds, about 16 pounds below average for a boy his age.

Cuffie and Wimes were charged with their son's murder.

The Inquirer reported that a state-mandated review team found that numerous people failed to save little Khalil from his parents, who were well known to the city's Department of Human Services.

Five of the couple's other children had been removed from their care. DHS handed Khalil over to a cousin shortly after he was born because his folks were allegedly abusing drugs.

Khalil was healthy and happy while he was cared for by his relative, but he was returned to his parents, who regularly pummeled the boy and made him sleep on a soiled mattress, the Inquirer reported.

A DHS social worker resigned after Khalil died, and the state review team filed a negligence complaint against a doctor who examined the boy about a year before his death but noted at the time that "all is well," even though he had lost weight.

- David Gambacorta

Vet killed for laptop

 Joseph Fleming was a decorated Korean War veteran who raised six children in Southwest Philadelphia - and decided to stay there despite the decay that had overtaken his neighborhood.

Two young thugs intent on stealing his laptop broke into his well-kept home through a window and shot him May 17. Fleming, 80, died 36 days later. He was one of seven people older than 65 killed in the city this year.

Police charged Sean Johnson, 19, with murder and escape, after he fled from a Philly police station and went to Virginia. He was recaptured within days and extradited. His alleged accomplice Aaron Pitts, 21, also awaits trial.

- Dana DiFilippo

Baby's bottle spiked

Christopher Rosado was two days shy of his first birthday.

But the baby from East Frankford never made the milestone. During a feeding a few hours before dawn on May 11, his father allegedly spiked his bottle with drugs. He was discovered dead in his crib, facedown in his own vomit.

Pathologists found morphine and methadone in his system, and heroin in the bottle.

Orlando Rosado, 45, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who has prior robbery and drug arrests in New York, admitted that he put the drugs in his son's bottle - but insisted that it was a mistake. Prosecutors believe he intentionally drugged the baby to quiet his fussing.

- Dana DiFilippo

Killed over a tattoo

Kharee Tillmon, 18, died over $10 and a tattoo.

The teen was gunned down in broad daylight on a crowded playground in North Philadelphia on Sept. 10. Relatives said they suspected that a man the amateur artist had given a tattoo refused to pay $10, and then shot him when confronted.

Tillmon's killer remains on the loose. Tillmon's slaying outside the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center, on 22nd Street near Huntingdon, was the sixth in a string of shootings at city playgrounds in a little more than a month.

- Morgan Zalot

Homicide witness killed

Rosemary Fernandez-Rivera, 33, became a target after she witnessed Jorge Aldea gun down a man outside her North Philly bodega in November 2011.

Police said that Fernandez-Rivera was fatally shot by members of Aldea's posse inside the Caribe Mini Market, at Mutter and Westmoreland streets, on Jan. 23.

Aldea, 23, was arrested in New York. Philly police also arrested Aldea's pregnant girlfriend, Eliana Vasquez, 19; Shawn Poindexter, 17, and Raymond Soto, 20. The foursome await trial.

- David Gambacorta

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