Another murder charge for man who beats them

Malisha "Lai Lai" Jessie was in a long-term relationship with Rudy McGriff when she was shot dead in April on the same block where he lived.
Malisha "Lai Lai" Jessie was in a long-term relationship with Rudy McGriff when she was shot dead in April on the same block where he lived.
Posted: October 16, 2013

BODIES FULL of bullet holes began piling up on Rudolph "Rudy" McGriff's record before he was old enough to buy himself a beer, but he always found a way to dodge murder convictions.

In 1995, when the West Philly native was 18, the Daily News noted that he had a "penchant" for being accused of murder, after he was acquitted of the crime a second time. That seemed like an understatement later that year after McGriff was accused of a triple homicide.

Now, McGriff, 38, is in jail again, charged with a sixth murder - this time of a girlfriend, Malisha "Lai Lai" Jessie. With so many bodies, three murder cases and no convictions behind him, Jessie's sister is concerned about McGriff's day in court.

"Everybody knows his history, that he got off all those murder charges," said Jessie's sister, who asked not to be identified. "I'm nervous about it, but I believe in God and believe God got the person who murdered Lai Lai."

On April 7, Jessie, 29, was shot twice in the head in Tioga, left lying on the same block of Bailey Street where McGriff lived. Neither police nor Jessie's family publicly identified a suspect at the time, although Jessie's sister said McGriff had been violent with Jessie in the past and stayed at the funeral for about 20 minutes.

"The last day I saw him was the funeral," she said.

Lawyer Jack McMahon, who represented McGriff on all three of his previous murder cases, told the Daily News in 1995 that he instructed McGriff after his second acquittal to get out of Philadelphia and start over somewhere else. McGriff stuck around, though, and before the year was over, he and six other alleged gang members were accused of killing three men near 40th Street and Girard Avenue in what police said was an ongoing battle with the Junior Black Mafia over drug turf.

McGriff and the six other defendants were held with no bail and no trial for years. But they were freed in 2004 after the state Supreme Court found that the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office had violated the "speedy trial rule."

McMahon, when reached for comment about McGriff's latest arrest, echoed sentiments from 1995, suggesting that McGriff would always be a target for law enforcement.

"Rudy was a very fortunate young man back then. Not being convicted of three distinct first-degree murder cases is truly remarkable. I hoped that dodging all those situations would have an effect on his life moving forward," McMahon said. "On the other hand, because of all this, being targeted by law enforcement is certainly not out of the question."

McGriff finally followed his former attorney's advice after Malisha Jessie was gunned down. He headed to Columbia, S.C., where he has family. On Oct. 2, McGriff, accompanied by a lawyer, surrendered to police in Philadelphia and was charged with murder and weapons violations.

"He's a bad guy," said Sean Mellon, of the Philadelphia Police Homicide Fugitive Unit.

Court records show that McGriff is being represented by the Public Defender's Office and has a preliminary hearing set for Oct. 23. No one answered the door at several addresses listed for McGriff, including the one on Bailey Street near where Jessie's body was found.

Jessie, who lived in Spring Garden, dated McGriff for about five years, her sister said, adding that she believed he owned an auto-detailing shop. One address listed for McGriff was the posh Waterfront Square towers on the Delaware River.

"He was a flashy guy," Jessie's sister said.

According to accounts in the Daily News and the Inquirer, McGriff was first charged with murder in 1992 and again in 1993. As a juvenile, he was arrested multiple times for drug sales and other crimes.

McGriff, according to those news accounts, cut off his electronic ankle monitor in fall 1995, one day before the triple homicide in West Philly.

In 2004, when all the defendants were freed on the issue of a speedy-trial violation, the legal community in Philadelphia said it was an "unprecedented" move. For McGriff, it was nothing new.

On Twitter: @JasonNark

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