Friday, September 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Suspect held for trial in teen cold case killing

Antonio Quintin Clarke, 15, was tortured and killed as punishment for backing down from a fight. His alleged murderer had a day in court.

Suspect held for trial in teen cold case killing

In June, cold case investigators cracked the 2007 killing of Antonio Quintin Clarke, a 15-year-old Bartram High School special-education student who was killed by men in his neighborhood as punishment for backing down from a fistfight.

Police had discovered the boy's beaten and stabbed body wrapped in plastic behind the loading dock of a Grays Ferry electrical warehouse. He was naked, except for a T-shirt pulled over his shoulders, hockey-fight style. His throat was slit.

The case had frustrated detectives. Clarke had no connection to the streets. He had never been in trouble with police. He had an after-school job at a community center near his Southwest Philadelphia home and helped his mother take care of his physically disabled sister.

Why would someone want him dead? Why would someone torture him?

Detectives stuck with the case. Four years later, improved DNA identification methods led them to Tramine Garvin, 29, who gave a statement to detectives explaining what led to Clarke's murder. It was as senseless as it was sickening and saddening.

The week before his death, Clarke had backed down from a hallway fistfight at school, police said. He had been laughing at a joke, and another student thought he was laughing at him. Backing down, made him a target for abuse in the neighborhood.

Scared, he skipped school for a few days, returning to his basement bedroom after his mother went to work.

When Garvin, who police say was trying to enlist Clarke and some of his classmates into the Bloods street gang, found out that Clarke had backed down from the fight, he decided to make an example out of him.

He and two other suspects lured Clarke to a neighborhood backyard they had covered in plastic shower curtains. The boy thought he was going to the house to play videogames. Instead, Garvin and the other men, who have yet to be identified or arrested, bound and beat  the teen to death.

When Clarke was on the ground, bleeding to death, growing weak, the men stabbed him some more. Then they disposed of his body and returned to play their video games.

"He had made the block look like a bitch," Garvin told investigators, explaining why Clarke had to be punished. 

On Wednesday, Garvin was in court for a preliminary hearing. He is pleading not guilty, trying to avoid punishment, despite giving a confession.

Prosecutor Beth McCaffery began by reading Clarke's autopsy report with it's long, awful list of injuries.

Reading the report aloud would take a few minutes -- and the details of Clarke's demise would be hard to handle.

Before beginning, McCaffery asked the judge if she could sit down.

"Yes," said the judge.

The courtroom qrew silent as she read -- even the rows of teenagers in the back rows who were there to support a friend who was charged with murder in a different case.

"Damn," one of the kids said, as the reading of Clarke's injuries stretched on.

Detective Bill Kelhower than read Garvin's confession.

Garvin said he hugged Clarke before leading him into the backyard. He said some of the group laughed as they killed the child.

Clarke's mother, Marie, Clarke, took the day off from her school custodian job to be in the courtroom and somehow had the stength to sit and listen. She wore a pin on her blouse with a picture of her son. He was handsome and gentle looking.

Garvin was nearly twice the age of Clarke when he allegedly killed the teen for turning away from a fight. At 6'3, and 215 pounds, he also towered over the boy.

The judge told Garvin to stand. He told him he was holding him for a murder trial later this year.

Marie Clarke went home to her family, to her job, resolute to return to see justice for her son, Q.

About this blog

Mike Newall has been covering Philly crime, cops and mayhem since 2007, beginning with his work with the Philadelphia City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly.

He joined the Inquirer’s New Jersey Bureau in 2010, reporting extensively on violence in Camden, and has been back on the Philly crime beat since April, where he finds the people and the stories behind the daily crime blotter.

Reach Newall at mnewall@phillynews.com.

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