Delco DA: Wrong man charged with Chester murder

Posted: March 21, 2013

In a rare move, the Delaware County District Attorney's office has withdrawn charges against a defendant in the murder of a minister's son in Chester's north end last Memorial Day.

An FBI forensic analysis of surveillance photos indicated that Tahmir Craig was not involved in the crime, the DA announced Wednesday.

"I am a free man," said Tahmir Craig, 23, as he headed to his attorney's office after being released from jail. He said his 10 months in prison were stressful and depressing, but added, "I'll be alright."

District Attorney Jack Whelan said he received a report from the FBI concerning photos that indicated the actual shooter was 5-foot-11 -- or 5 1/2 inches taller than Craig.

After viewing the photos, Whelan said, he ordered the immediate release of Craig. Whelan said he apologized to Craig and his mother Melonie Craig.

On May 28, Craig, 23, was at home playing on his computer, talking on his cell phone and visiting with a neighbor when Devon Williams, 27, of Chester, was gunned down in the 2100 block of Edgmont Avenue shortly after 1 p.m.

A surveillance photo was released to the media, and within hours police received tips that a man named "Tahmir" was involved in the crime. A state-issued photo ID matched the surveillance image. Witnesses said they had seen Craig wearing similar clothing and were able to pick him from a photo array.

A few days later, after finding a note from police at his home, Craig turned himself in to detectives, accompanied by his attorney, Scott Kramer. Bail was denied and for 10 months he was incarcerated at the Delaware County jail.

He was charged with first- and third-degree murder, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, and weapons charges.

Jamar Jones, the neighbor who had been with Craig at the time of the slaying, was killed in a hit-and-run crash on June 30, said Kramer. Jones had provided defense investigators with an alibi statement for Craig, he said.

Craig is a "good kid," said Kramer. He was working in construction at the time of his arrest and never had been in trouble with the law, he said.

Later a witness recanted his statement that Craig could have been the shooter. Whelan said that even the victim's mother approached investigators with doubts that Craig was involved.

Kramer said that back in the fall the district attorney's office agreed to his suggestion to use facial-recognition software to help exonerate his client.

"It's been hell for me," said Melonie Craig. She said the police never talked to her about her son. Her house was "torn up" when police searched for evidence. She and her son will have to move from Chester for his safety, she said. "It will never be the same for him."

Kramer said he planned to file a civil suit in federal court within the month.

Williams was the son of the Rev. Calvin Williams of the Temple of Brotherly Love in Chester. The district attorney's office again is releasing the photos - now enhanced - from the crime scene in hopes a witness will identify the suspect.

"We are going to treat this case as if it happened today," said Whelan.

Contact staff writer Mari A. Schaefer at 610-313-8111, mschaefer@phillynews.com or @MariSchaefer on Twitter.

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