Man cleared in N. Phila. killing released from custody

Posted: May 14, 2014

On Friday, Eric Locke learned the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office had withdrawn all charges accusing him of the 2012 killing of the owner of a check-cashing business.

On Monday, after a day in which it looked as if Locke might remain in prison on a possible probation violation, the 34-year-old was freed from the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center. His lawyer, Anthony J. Voci Jr., said Locke called him about 5:30 p.m. to say he was on his way home to North Philadelphia.

"He told me he's looking forward to reconnecting with his family," Voci said. "He told me he wants to find a job."

Earlier in the day, Voci said he was not sure when Locke would be released, because authorities contended his arrest in the March 3, 2012, slaying of Joel Blumer, 53, violated the terms of his probation from an armed robbery conviction. According to state law, any arrest, even a case that is later dismissed, could amount to a probation violation. That matter had to be resolved before Locke's release.

Friday's decision to withdraw charges against Locke stunned relatives of Blumer, a married father of two from Holland in Bucks County.

"I am just devastated," Blumer's mother, Gertrude, said Monday night. "I don't understand it. How can this happen?

"I just hope I'm around to see justice," she added.

"I can't catch my breath. This has devastated our family," said his brother Jeffrey, 51, of Las Vegas.

"I can't understand this," Blumer added. "What about the four eyewitnesses who identified him?"

The developments in Locke's case illustrate the difficulties detectives and prosecutors can experience building a case.

Detectives had reason to believe they had the right man. Four witnesses picked Locke's photo out of an array as the gunman who killed Blumer as he was opening his B&R Check Cashing at 26th and Sterner Streets in North Philadelphia.

Locke, however, said he could not have shot Blumer because at the time he was visiting the mother of his two children in Williamsport - 180 miles and a three-hour drive away.

It was last fall when Voci said he convinced the newly assigned prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy, to take a fresh look at Locke's purported alibi: the cellphones of Locke and the driver of a Williamsport van service who said he drove Locke from Williamsport to Philadelphia.

Records for both showed the cellphones "pinging" off towers all the way from one city to the other until Locke arrived back in Philadelphia on the afternoon of March 3, 2012 - the day Blumer was killed.


jslobodzian@phillynews.com

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