Sitting on the porch of her Greene Street home Sunday afternoon, Marcie Ashby periodically rubbed her face with her hands and rocked softly in her chair.
"I'm talked out and I'm cried out," she finally said. But after reflection she agreed to talk some more about her nephew, Antonio Baggs, 37, who was shot to death around the corner Saturday night on Abbottsford Avenue, which intersects Greene.
Baggs, her brother's son, from Pompano Beach, Fla., had come to Philadelphia with his fiancée and his son and daughter for what was to be a surprise visit, first to Ashby's home and next to the Delaware home of his 86-year-old grandmother, who is Ashby's mother, she said.
But before Baggs and his family could exit their Dodge Durango, a black vehicle with dark tinted windows driven by a man pulled alongside and a gunman opened fire, striking Baggs multiple times just after 10 p.m., according to Ashby and police. The vehicle was last seen going south on Greene Street, police said.
Somehow the others in the SUV were not hit by bullets. Baggs was pronounced dead at Einstein Medical Center about a half-hour later, police said.
"My daughter across the street called me and said Tony's in town and he's trying to get in. So when I was coming downstairs I just heard boom, boom, boom. Loud gunshots. I went to the door but I didn't see him," Ashby recalled. "By this time cops were everywhere and we knew somebody got shot. Then my son-in-law came out of the house and said, 'Mom, that was Tony who got shot, that was Tony.' And I just snapped."
Ashby, 68, said she is convinced her nephew was shot in a case of mistaken identity because he has no criminal record and he has no enemies in Philadelphia.
Through her screams of anguish she said as much to the police officers who converged on the tree-shaded block of well-maintained large-framed rowhouses. This was not a drug killing, this was her nephew who worked in a dairy, took care of his family, and was planning to marry in three months, Ashby told the cops.
"They believed me. You should have seen them, they looked so sad you would have thought a policeman had been shot," she said. "The cops were so sad here and at the hospital. They believed me. They know that he was a good guy."
Homicide Capt. John Ryan said Sunday evening that police haven't yet determined what a motive.
"It could very well be a case of mistaken identity. That is the most likely thing now," Ryan said. "We'll have to look into his background more, but this man had just driven up from Florida and had only been in the city a few hours. He hadn't been in the city long at all."
Baggs had made a few stops in Philadelphia, including at a restaurant, but "there had been no altercation with anyone. And this was not a road rage kind of thing. We literally have no idea what prompted this," Ryan said.
"It is very fortunate that no one else in the car got killed," he said. "It's bad enough that he got killed."
The family has not told Baggs' grandmother because she is frail "and this could kill her," said Ashby, who is retired from SEPTA.
Baggs' fiancée and his children — Ashby said the boy is about 14, the girl, 5 — had to rent a car to get to the airport to return home because the vehicle he was mortally wounded in is still being held as evidence, she said.
"They're out of it. His father is out of it. His mother was taken to the hospital. Everybody is out of it," Ashby said.
For her nephew's killer she had this message: "You took a beautiful life, someone who wouldn't hurt a fly. All he did was take care of his kids. He took them fishing in the ocean. That's what he did."
About 15 relatives came to Ashby's home Sunday, a common occurrence when elderly relatives pass, she said. But this time the relative was young.
"It's always a natural death. Never murder or drugs," she said of the previous gatherings.
Ashby can barely comprehend what has befallen her family.