Cops, D.A.: We got the 'bastards'

Posted: July 30, 2014

THERE ARE monsters among us, but it seems two of them are off the streets now.

A handful of city officials crowded around a podium at police headquarters yesterday afternoon and announced that investigators had locked up the two men who they say brought unspeakable horror to North Philadelphia on Friday.

When all is said and done, according to District Attorney Seth Williams, Cornelius Crawford, 24, and Jonathan Rosa, 19, could face life in prison for their 15-minute reign of terror.

It began with the alleged carjacking and sexual assault of a real-estate agent at 6th and Cumberland streets, and ended when the duo lost control of their victim's Toyota 4Runner and slammed into a fruit stand at Germantown and Allegheny avenues, killing three children and critically injuring the kids' mother.

It is one of the darkest, most depressing tales to unfold in a city well-versed in violence and heartache. Yet, amid the grief and despair, there were hints of light.

Witnesses, often hard to come by when cops try to solve violent crimes, were anxious to aid investigators.

Homicide Capt. James Clark said some residents provided detectives with descriptions of the two men who ran from the scene of the crash, while others volunteered video recordings of the crime taken from their homes and businesses.

One of the biggest breaks was provided by a passerby who happened to find a cellphone at the site of the tragedy on Friday, and then brought it to the Homicide Unit.

The phone, Clark said, belonged to Rosa.

"This was a great collaboration between police and the community," Clark said.

Everett Gillison, Mayor Nutter's chief of staff, said the citizens who came forward and helped investigators solve the case would be eligible to claim the $110,000 reward posted by the city and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5.

Williams praised Homicide Sgt. Charles Coan, Detective Edward Tolliver and other investigators who worked nonstop through the weekend to help bring "these two bastards to justice."

Barkley offers to help

NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley also reached out and offered to cover the funeral costs for Keiearra Williams, 15; Thomas Reed, 10; and Terrence Moore, 7, who were raising money for their church when they were mowed down by the alleged carjackers.

Their mother, Keisha Williams, 34, was still listed in critical condition yesterday at Temple University Hospital.

Thelma Brown, who was also injured in the crash, was listed in fair condition at Hahnemann University Hospital. The real-estate agent - whom the Daily News is not identifying because she was the victim of an alleged sexual assault - was listed in good condition at Temple.

Crawford was captured by U.S. Marshals and homicide detectives on Sunday night behind a house on 6th Street near Cambria. Rosa, meanwhile, surrendered to authorities that day alongside his mother and a pastor.

Both were charged yesterday with three counts of second-degree murder, as well as robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, the D.A. said.

Clark said the two young men apparently had only known one another for about a week before they allegedly pounced on the Realtor on Friday morning as she made her way back to her Toyota SUV after finishing a real-estate transaction at 6th and Cambria.

Williams said the alleged carjackers forced the woman to perform "heinous" acts on them once they got her inside the vehicle.

The SUV was tearing down the road at a high rate of speed when a tire blew out near Germantown and Allegheny and the driver lost control, Clark said.

The children at the fruit stand never stood a chance.

A look into both suspects' past reveals hints of trouble to come.

Rosa's lawyer, Christopher Warren, said the teen graduated from Jules E. Mastbaum Area Vocational Technical School a year ago, and had never been to jail before.

"He was supposed to go into the Marine Corps in about two months," Warren said. "He really is a good kid."

Warren said that Rosa "didn't have anything to do" with the real-estate agent's sexual assault, and that he expressed remorse for the deaths of the three children and concern for the condition of their mother.

"He cannot erase from his mind the mental image of [Keiearra Williams] flying over the hood of the SUV," Warren said.

A Facebook tough guy

But on Facebook, Rosa identified himself as "Jonny Sofargone Rosa" and listed his occupation as a "former contract killer."

His page is littered with wannabe tough-guy lyrics and references to getting high.

A post from Sept. 26, 2013, seems especially prophetic: "Lookin for the right way to do the wrong things," Rosa wrote.

Crawford, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of robbery and possessing an instrument of crime, and was sentenced to five to 13 years in prison.

He was paroled last year, then later busted on a violation, only to be released on parole again, officials said yesterday.

Some North Philly residents expressed surprise that Rosa and Crawford allegedly were involved in such a senseless tragedy.

Juan Marrero, the pastor and executive director at Crossroads Community Center, on 6th Street near Cambria, said Rosa is "literally the last person I would ever think would get involved in something of this nature."

Marrero, 40, of North Philadelphia, said Rosa has a "quiet demeanor," was "very respectful" and had come through the center as a child.

At one point, Crawford also had come to the center, Marrero said. A worker there had fed him once, and they knew he had just been released from prison and were trying to help.

"It's just tragic for everybody. That's my point of emphasis here," Marrero said. "It's just a sad situation for everybody involved. The lives that were took, you know, and now these young men who have thrown their life away because of a dumb decision."

Gina Perez, 27, said she knew both Crawford and Rosa. They all "grew up at Crossroads," like many others in the "Badlands," she said.

Perez, a stay-at-home mother of seven children who has lived in the neighborhood all her life, said she wasn't sure where Rosa "got all this thug stuff from." After all, she said, he had "grown up" in the church.

"We wish we was out there that morning," she said. "[Crawford] would have listened to us, and none of this would have never happened."

Clark, the homicide captain, was somber when asked if Rosa and Crawford had expressed remorse.

"What they did was indefensible and also unforgivable," he said. "Whatever remorse they may or may not have does not bring back the three young children."

On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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