Fired detective, Craigslist-murder suspect testify at trial

THE ATTORNEY FOR a man accused of robbing people lured in by Craigslist ads - and killing one of the victims - mounted his defense yesterday by calling to the witness stand a now-fired homicide detective and the defendant, Thomas Coffee.

Attorney Evan Hughes subpoenaed former Homicide Detective Ron Dove to testify. Dove was the assigned detective in the murder of Daniel Cook, 27, who was shot and killed about 11:10 p.m. June 21, 2013, in West Oak Lane, where Coffee previously lived.

Cook, of South Jersey, had come into Philly to buy a Yamaha Banshee all-terrain vehicle he had seen advertised on Craigslist. Coffee admitted posting the ad.

But instead of going home that night, Cook was shot dead at Hollis Street and Walnut Lane.

Coffee, 25, is charged with robbing and murdering Cook. He is also accused of robbing three other people earlier that June - two of whom, like Cook, had responded to Craigslist ads.

Dove, now 43, who is out on bail, was charged in January with flight to avoid apprehension, conspiracy, tampering with evidence and related offenses in a different case, which involves his girlfriend, Erica Sanchez.

Sanchez, 34, is accused of stabbing to death her ex-boyfriend, Cesar Vera, on Sept. 8, 2013. Dove allegedly moved her car from the crime scene and drove her to upstate New York after the murder.

Common Pleas Judge Glenn Bronson, who is presiding over Coffee's trial, did not permit Hughes to question Dove before the jury about his criminal case.

Dove, looking suntanned and thinner, dressed in faded jeans and a black shirt, confirmed during questioning by Hughes that he is no longer a homicide detective and said he was the assigned detective on Cook's murder.

He said he was at Coffee's Willow Grove house the morning of June 22, 2013, with other detectives and an Abington police SWAT team to execute a search warrant. Cellphone records from Cook's phone, found by his body, indicated he had been in contact with Coffee that June 21, up until 11 that night.

Dove testified that in Coffee's small basement bedroom, he and two other homicide detectives found a .40-caliber bullet in a ceiling tile and several cellphones, including an iPhone with its SIM card, or memory card, removed and bent, and a cellphone that was stolen from a robbery victim, Malik Bivings, on June 17, 2013.

Hughes yesterday tried to suggest in his opening statement, and in his questioning of Dove that Dove had done something improper. He tried to elicit from Dove that Dove was the one who recovered the .40-caliber bullet and Bivings' cellphone. Dove said he didn't recall personally recovering either item, that it could have been him or the other detectives there.

The .40-caliber bullet matches the make and model of a legally owned gun that was stolen from another robbery victim, Ben Booker, on June 8, 2013. Assistant District Attorney Guy D'Andrea has said that Booker's gun was used to execute Cook.

Coffee testified that he posted the Craigslist ad for the Yamaha Banshee ATV on behalf of a friend named "Sted."

He said he arranged for Cook to meet him and "Sted" on Hollis Street in West Oak Lane about 9 p.m. that June 21. But after waiting about an hour and not seeing Cook, Coffee said he left to go back to his Willow Grove home. "Sted" stayed.

Coffee contended that it was "Sted" who killed Cook.

He also said he had no idea how a .40-caliber bullet ended up in his ceiling tile or how Bivings' phone ended up in his room. He said he didn't rob Bivings, Booker, or another man - Jose Ocana - whom he is accused of robbing.

Under cross-examination by D'Andrea, Coffee said he didn't know "Sted's" last name.

"He's the murderer?" D'Andrea asked incredulously.

"Yes," Coffee replied.


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