Voice ID, dog dialing 911 lead to trial

Posted: July 21, 2013

Tamayo McDuffy apparently sized up his next-door neighbor as an easy target: a blind woman who lived alone.

McDuffy didn't bargain on a few things, though.

Such as the fact that she might recognize his voice.

Or that her dog would call 911.

That would be Yolanda, the golden retriever guide dog that lay quietly in court Friday as her owner told the remarkable story that ended with McDuffy, 18, being held for trial on attempted murder and burglary charges.

"It was the voice of the boy next door," testified Maria Colon, 54.

Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Melissa Francis, Colon said she went to bed in her Holmesburg rowhouse about 10 p.m. May 3. She said she was awakened by a noise and the sound of her dog growling.

She heard voices and footsteps, and then someone cursed and said, "You didn't tell me she lived with a dog."

A second voice, which Colon said she recognized as McDuffy's, replied, "It's a guide dog, it's a poodle."

"It doesn't look like a poodle, it looks like a lion," the other voice replied, according to Colon.

There was the sound of growling and paws padding downstairs, Colon testified, as Yolanda chased the intruders. She said the dog returned to bring her the telephone receiver, and she heard the voice of a police operator, asking, "Can I help you?"

The dog had been trained to respond to danger in the house by pushing a large 911 button on a special phone, then bringing her the receiver.

Colon said she got out of bed, fell, and made her way downstairs, where she noticed an overwhelming smell of gas. Police arrived and got her to safety, she said.

Defense attorney Beverly Muldrow vigorously questioned Colon and tried to persuade Municipal Court Judge David C. Shuter that her vocal identification of McDuffy - the only evidence against him - should not be allowed.

Francis, however, reminded Shuter that Colon had correctly identified by voice the approximate ages and gender of others living in McDuffy's house.

Muldrow also argued that Colon had a history of emergency calls to police and that she left the gas on before going to bed. Colon denied leaving the stove on, and Police Officer Charles Squares testified that all four burners and the oven were on when he entered the kitchen.

Detective John Hughes testified that no fingerprints were found on the stove or on a basement door that had been forced open.

Shuter ruled that there was enough evidence to hold McDuffy for trial on charges of attempted murder, conspiracy, burglary, and risking a catastrophe. He remains in jail after failing to post $100,000 bail.

Colon moved from her home after several incidents of harassment and vandalism, Francis said.

Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.

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