A ex-fugitive at last faces trial in '96 killing of Olney man

A Philadelphia jury yesterday was shown a series of black-and-white police photographs of Anthony Schroeder's shirtless, bloodied, lifeless body, sprawled on his cluttered living room floor.

Crime Scene Unit Officer Lamont Fox explained that the department was still using black-and-white film at the time of Schroeder's slaying - in the early morning hours on Aug. 16, 1996.

Yesterday, the World War II veteran's accused killer, David Nam, faced a judge and jury on the first day of his murder trial.

Nam was 19 when he and three accomplices, all aged 14, tried to pull a home invasion at Schroeder's Olney rowhouse, police believe.

While standing on the porch with one of the boys, Nam used a .22-caliber rifle to fire a bullet through the screen door and into the 77-year-old man's heart, said Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson, who's been attached to the case from the beginning.

Back then, Nam's nickname was "Solid," and he and his accomplices were members of the Northside Crips gang, Gilson said.

Nam, now 32, looks a far cry from a gang leader. Neatly dressed in a black suit, bookish eyeglasses and sporting a buzz haircut, he more resembles what he had become as a 10-year fugitive from justice: a teacher and family man.

While awaiting trial in March 1998, Nam got a passport and fled Philadelphia for South Korea, the country where his parents were born. Police there arrested him a year later but released him because the U.S. and South Korea did not have an extradition treaty.

Nam disappeared and reinvented himself as a straight arrow: He married, fathered three children and found work as an English teacher at a private school.

It wasn't until March 2008 - more than eight years after President Bill Clinton signed an extradition treaty as a result of Nam's case - that South Korean police tracked him down again and turned him over to the FBI that September.

In Nam's possession the FBI found notes he had written to South Korean officials in which he confessed to the murder and begged for their help to remain in the Asian nation, Gilson told the jury.

"Folks, this is not a whodunit. This is not a murder mystery," the prosecutor said. "It's taken over 13 years for this case to come to court. But it starts today."

Defense attorney Michael Wallace asked the jurors not to give much weight to Nam's protracted extradition case because it had nothing to do with the crimes he is charged with: murder, robbery, burglary, theft, conspiracy and several weapons counts.

Wallace suggested that Schroeder's real killer could have been one of Nam's accomplices: Robert Souvannavong.

It was in Souvannavong's basement that the teens hatched the robbery plan, he was on the porch with Nam during the shooting and he returned alone to Schroeder's house afterward to search for money, but instead stole the victim's handgun and slapped the old man in the face to make sure he was not faking his death, Wallace told the jury.

"This case starts and ends with Robert Souvannavong," Wallace said.

Souvannavong, Louis Frattaroli and Bolla Man each pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and related charges and were sentenced to five years' probation in 2002.

Man, who testified for the prosecution yesterday, identified Nam as the shooter.

"It was supposed to be an easy job, he was an old man," Man said of the robbery.

He and Frattaroli stood on the 4th Street sidewalk serving as lookouts while Nam, with a rifle, and Souvannavong, with a BB gun, went to the porch, Man testified.

Moments later, Man said, he saw Schroeder standing at the front door, which was open, heard Nam's gun discharge and saw a flash from the barrel.

Man appeared reflective when Gilson asked why he was testifying even though he had already served his sentence. "I'm doing this because I've been carrying this for a long time. I'm trying to get right with myself. It's over with. That's why I'm doing this."

This morning Souvannavong is also expected to take the witness stand and identify Nam as Schroeder's killer. He'll do so under close watch because he is serving a 15-year federal prison sentence on drug and gun convictions.