Jury to keep deliberating in Piazza at Schmidts killings

A Philadelphia jury will begin a second day of deliberations Thursday in the trial of three men in the 2009 slayings at the Piazza at Schmidts complex in Northern Liberties.

The Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men spent about five hours Wednesday reviewing the evidence before going home.

Much of the afternoon, the jury reviewed security video from the Piazza's Navona building on June 27, 2009, the day Rian Thal and Timothy Gilmore were shot to death in what prosecutors say was a botched drug robbery.

The video shows the gunmen being let through the security door by Katoya Jones, a woman who lived at Navona and who pleaded guilty to murder and conspiracy charges for her role in the scheme.

The video shows Gilmore, 40, wounded and trying to flee, collapsing in front of the seventh-floor elevators, and then being shot and killed by two of the gunmen.

The death of Thal, 34, who with Gilmore was confronted in the hall outside her seventh-floor apartment, is not on video.

Prosecutors say that the video also shows alleged mastermind Will "Pooh" Hook, 43, entering the Navona about 4 a.m. with an accomplice. The men allegedly burglarized an apartment below Thal's in the mistaken belief a cache of drugs and cash was inside.

Hook, also known as Keith Epps, was not in the Navona at the time of the shootings, about 12 hours later, but prosecutors say he was sitting in a van outside and kept in touch with the killers by cellphone.

The jury also asked to see still photos of the alleged shooters on trial - Edward Daniels, 44, and Antonio Wright, 30 - apparently to compare them with the video.

Hook's lawyer has argued that he quit the scheme that ended in the killings after the fruitless predawn burglary.

Daniels' and Wright's lawyers have argued that the video images are too fuzzy to positively identify their clients.

The three defendants are charged with felony murder - killing during another serious crime - and face mandatory life terms without parole if the jury finds them guilty.

Prosecutors say Thal, a party planner, and Gilmore, an Ohio-based trucker, were killed by panicky robbers who shot and ran before they could get the cash and drugs they believed were in Thal's apartment.

After the killings, the gunmen fled without taking what they came for: more than $100,000 in cash and 81/2 pounds of cocaine police later found in Thal's apartment.

The three on trial were among eight people arrested in the slayings. Four pleaded guilty before jury selection began Nov. 7; a final defendant, arrested a year after the shootings, will be tried later.

 


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