Death of an educator

Colleagues remembered Ennis Manns as a “passionate educator,” a veteran Philadelphia School District principal who continued working as a curriculum consultant for a private company after he retired in 2010.

On July 1, he was killed -- beaten to death, Philadelphia prosecutors allege -- by a 39-year-old man from a deprived background who never finished fifth grade.

That man, David Lawrence, waived his preliminary hearing in Philadelphia Municipal Court last Tuesday, electing to go directly to a trial on murder charges. If Manns’ alleged killer is known, the circumstances of the death of 58-year-old educator in an apartment in the first block of North 50th Street in West Philadelphia remain as murky – publicly, at least -- as they did in the days after his death.

Mann, who lived in Elkins Park, was married and a father, was found at 6:25 p.m., bleeding from the head and unresponsive, by police responding to the report of a robbery in progress at the 50th Street address. He died a half-hour later at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Lawrence was arrested July 7 but his preliminary hearing was postponed until Tuesday, several days after police arrested Susan Freedman on a material witness bench warrant. Freedman had been sought since last August but was not located until two weeks ago.

Last Tuesday, Freedman, 44, face drawn and head down, slumped in the witness chair until Lawrence’s attorneys announced that he would waive his preliminary hearing. Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore told her she would be released but would need to return for Lawrence’s trial.

Afterward, Pescatore said Freedman, who described herself as Lawrence’s girlfriend, was a witness to the fatal beating. Pescatore said that Freedman said Manns was a visitor to the West Philadelphia apartment and that everyone was using crack cocaine at the time of the assault.

Lawrence’s attorneys, Daniel Stevenson and Fred Goodman, declined to comment after the hearing.

Manns worked as a teacher and principal in the Philadelphia School District for a quarter-century and was principal of Edwin Vare Middle School in South Philadelphia before he retired in 2010. He then went to work at a curriculum consultant for Universal Companies in South Philadelphia, owned by music legend and entrepreneur Kenny Gamble.

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