Trial ordered in South Phila. killing over backpack

Tyreek McNeil allegedly shared two things with Jahmir Carney: a neighborhood bicycle and the knowledge that he shot and killed a man last year in a failed attempt to steal a backpack.

Both wound up getting McNeil, 22, held for trial Tuesday on murder and robbery charges in the killing of Jose Gabino Aparicio-Jeronimo, 22, before dawn Sept. 26 at Eighth and Watkins Streets in South Philadelphia.

Tyreek McNeil was ordered to face trial.

Aparicio, who worked at a Center City bar and had finished his shift earlier, and another man were sitting outside about 4 a.m. when a bicyclist pulled up, announced a robbery, and shot the victim three times during a struggle before taking off on foot.

Aparicio's friend was not wounded.

Homicide detectives had initially focused on Carney, 19, who lives in South Philadelphia, as does McNeil, because they had found his fingerprint on the abandoned bicycle. But Carney had an alibi: By 11 p.m. Sept. 25, he was home for the evening, with his mother and brother.

Testifying at a preliminary hearing before Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan, Carney said that he and others had ridden the bike in his neighborhood, but was otherwise uncooperative.

Then, reluctantly and with many long pauses, Carney assented as Assistant District Attorney Gwenn Cujdik read aloud his statement to homicide detectives in which he said McNeil had admitted to him that he had shot Aparicio.

Carney told detectives that several days after Aparicio's slaying, he was walking with McNeil and several friends when McNeil indicated that he was relieved because police did not have enough of a description of the gunman to identify him.

Carney said McNeil told him he was riding the community bike about 4 a.m. on Sept. 26 when he saw two men sitting outside talking.

McNeil pulled out a handgun, approached the pair, and ordered them to hand over their valuables, Carney told detectives.

When Aparicio refused to surrender his backpack, a scuffle ensued and, according to Carney, McNeil shot Aparicio once in the back and twice in the torso. Then he ran, leaving the bicycle and backpack behind.

Questioning Carney, defense attorney Francis Carmen attacked his credibility, eliciting the fact that Carney was a heavy user of marijuana and had a motive to incriminate McNeil to deflect suspicion from himself.

Aparicio, the father of a 7-month-old son and four stepchildren, had emigrated from Mexico eight years earlier and worked at the Public House bar.

Samuel Aparicio-Perez, the victim's brother, testified that his brother and friend, a fellow Mexican émigré, had visited him at work that morning at his bakery on South Ninth Street.

Speaking through a Spanish interpreter, Aparicio-Perez said he went back into his bakery when he heard three shots and his brother's friend shouting for help.

"I went outside, and my brother was laying on the other side of the sidewalk," he said.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo