Bank teller: Liczbinski killer an 'aggressive' customer

The figure in Muslim-style female garb and dark glasses pointed a handgun at banker Brandon Smith and ordered, "Top drawer, bottom drawer."

Smith said he didn't know if the person veiled in black was a woman or a man. But those four words - the location of the teller's two cash drawers - told him that the robber knew a lot about the Bank of America branch in Port Richmond.

With good reason. According to testimony Wednesday in the trial of two men charged in the killing of Philadelphia Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, the person in black - veteran robber Howard Cain, 33 - had spent five months casing the branch, inside a ShopRite grocery at Aramingo and Castor Avenues.

Teller Yvette Perez testified that she knew Cain well. Every other Friday, when Cain came in to cash a paycheck, he seemed to end up in her line.

Cain flirted, leaning over the counter to get close, Perez told the Common Pleas Court jury. He wondered if she had a boyfriend, asked for her phone number, and talked about his Muslim faith.

"He made me uncomfortable," Perez said. "He was aggressive, and I tried to distance myself from him."

Only after May 3, 2008, she testified, did she learn that Cain had more on his mind than romance.

That Saturday morning, Perez said, she was working when Cain, in disguise, entered the bank with two others and robbed it at gunpoint.

In the next half-hour, Cain would shoot and kill Liczbinski, 39, in a showdown at Almond and Schiller Streets when he and two accomplices could not shake the pursuing policeman.

A short time later, two patrol officers would shoot Cain as he emptied his getaway van of money. He tried to shoot them with the same 35-shot SKS Chinese assault rifle he used to kill Liczbinski. But the rifle jammed, and the officers' return fire killed Cain on the spot.

Cain's casing of the bank and planning for the robbery have become key to the prosecution's effort to convince the jury that his accomplices - Eric DeShann Floyd, 35, of North Philadelphia, and Levon T. Warner, 41, of West Philadelphia - should be found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.

None of three bank workers who testified Wednesday could identify Floyd as the lookout in Muslim-associated female clothing or Warner as the gunman in the shoulder-length dreadlock wig and blue surgical mask.

But all three registered shock when confronted in court with mannequins dressed in the clothes worn by the three robbers, and when they watched the bank surveillance video of the robbery.

Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy told the jury in his opening statement Tuesday that the results of DNA tests would link the clothing to Floyd and Warner.

Testimony resumes Thursday morning before Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes at the Criminal Justice Center.


Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com.