Murder trial ordered in deadly headphone robbery

Posted: March 28, 2014

In a time when "don't snitch" is the code of the streets, all Arkel Garcia wanted to do was talk and "clear his name" in last year's slaying of Christian Massey.

So, according to detectives, Garcia described how he and two West Philadelphia friends - brothers - decided Nov. 30 to rob the 21-year-old intellectually disabled student of his pricey new Beats by Dre headphones. He told police how the robbery turned deadly when the 6-foot-2, 305-pound star athlete from Marple Newtown High School resisted and was about to body slam one of the brothers.

But after police described during Garcia's preliminary hearing Wednesday how that story developed one hole after another, Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni ordered him - and only him - held for trial in Massey's killing.

The holes in the story were irrefutable: One of the brothers turned out to be recovering from a gunshot wound on the day of the killing, said Detective Nathaniel Williams, and the other - who Garcia said was the shooter - has yet to be found.

And then there was security camera video at the crime scene, which Williams said showed just one man accosting Massey shortly before 5 p.m. Nov. 30 in the 5800 block of Lebanon Avenue in West Philadelphia.

The video corresponds to what police say the mortally wounded Massey told them before he was taken to the hospital: One man robbed and shot him.

"We believe there is only one person involved," Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley said outside court.

O'Malley said detectives still wanted to interview the other brother but said he was not a suspect.

Defense attorney Joshua E. Scarpello said that Garcia insisted he had nothing to do with the attempted robbery and shooting and that detectives pressured him into the statement. Scarpello said he would move to quash Garcia's alleged statement.

"The video shows you nothing," Scarpello added. "I'm not even sure it shows the decedent in this case."

Massey was from the Carroll Park neighborhood in West Philadelphia but attended a special-needs school in Delaware County. He was mainstreamed into Marple Newtown High School, where he excelled in football, basketball, and lacrosse.

O'Malley said Massey, who graduated from high school in June, had finished a junior-college program and planned to go to a four-year school.

"This was an outstanding young man," said O'Malley.


jslobodzian@phillynews.com

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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