Mother of Rittenhouse Square stabbing victim: 'My life was shattered'

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Steven Simminger II (left) was sentenced to life in prison on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, for fatally stabbing Colin McGovern (right), 24, in March 2016 at Rittenhouse Square.

It’s been nearly two years since the second of her three sons was murdered in a senseless stabbing in Rittenhouse Square. The pain never goes away; it just gets deeper, Patricia McGovern told a judge Monday.

“It goes against all emotional, spiritual, and biological drive to bury my own child,” McGovern said. “Colin was happy, smart, funny. His laughter was contagious. People were drawn to him. … He loved animals, music, and his friends.”

“When Colin was murdered, my life was shattered,” she said. “Everything shut down.”

It was about 3 a.m. March 13, 2016, when Colin McGovern, 24, of Churchville, Bucks County, was stabbed by Steven Simminger II, a stranger who became ticked off when one of McGovern’s friends made a sarcastic remark about Simminger’s New Jersey Devils cap.

A jury in November convicted Simminger, 42, of first-degree murder, finding he intentionally killed McGovern. The panel also convicted him of a charge of possession of an instrument of crime.

Common Pleas Court Judge J. Scott O’Keefe on Monday sentenced Simminger, of Blackwood and previously of Media, to the mandatory term of life in prison for the murder and to a consecutive term of 2½ to five years in state prison on the weapon charge.

“You went out looking for trouble that night,” the judge told Simminger. “You see what you done to these people?” he asked, referencing the nearly 20 relatives and friends of McGovern’s in the courtroom.

“You have shown no remorse,” the judge told Simminger, who earlier declined to comment.

McGovern’s aunt Kathleen Gara told the judge that her nephew was known for his kindness, that thousands attended his funeral service, and that an empty chair is kept for him at family holiday gatherings.

After the mother, aunt and a family friend spoke, former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Andrew Notaristefano, who sat with the victim’s parents and older brother in the second row of the courtroom gallery, got up and at the family’s request read six victim-impact statements written by the victim’s father, two other aunts, and several family friends.

Notaristefano tried the case against Simminger last year. He was among 31 staffers forced to resign Jan. 5 by new District Attorney Larry Krasner, three days after Krasner took office.

Camera icon Julie Shaw / Staff
Former Philadelphia prosecutor Andrew Notaristefano (second from left) listens as Thomas “Duke” McGovern, the father of victim Colin McGovern, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center after the sentencing hearing. The victim’s mother, Patricia McGovern, and older brother, Matt McGovern, also listen.

The father, Thomas “Duke” McGovern, said in his statement that Colin was a compassionate man who loved animals, “related to young kids,” and was fond of people who were less fortunate.

The father also recalled how his middle son followed his footsteps, working side by side with him as a sprinkler fitter, including in a Rittenhouse Square building near where he was slain.

In another letter read by Notaristefano, Maria Gara, another of McGovern’s aunts, recalled how her nephew had a sense of humor like his father and how he loved music and sung under various nicknames, including “The Professor.”

Longtime Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron handled Monday’s sentencing hearing.

Defense attorney Gina Capuano, who has contended that Simminger stabbed McGovern out of fear and because of longtime mental-health issues including paranoia, said she would appeal the conviction and sentence.

During the trial, McGovern’s close friend Sean Boyd, 25, testified that he “was drunk” when he made a comment to Simminger about his Devils cap, “something along the lines of  ‘Screw the Devils.’” A surveillance video showed Simminger then calling out to Boyd, McGovern, and their two female friends as they walked away. After McGovern and Boyd turned around and walked back toward Simminger, the three men appeared to exchange words.

Notaristefano told jurors during the trial that Simminger then attacked first with one of two double-edged switchblade knives he was carrying. After Simminger fell, McGovern got on top of him to try to take the knife away, Notaristefano said. Instead, Simminger stabbed McGovern a total of 10 times, including in his heart.