York man to stand trial in shooting death of Whispering Wind Bear Spirit
A York City man accused in a botched robbery that ended in the shooting death of 41-year-old Whispering Wind Bear Spirit last month is facing trial.
Ryan Craig Strada, 20, of the 800 block of Cedar Village Avenue in York City, appeared Wednesday afternoon before District Judge Joel N. Toluba via video for a preliminary hearing.
He is charged with criminal homicide, robbery with serious bodily injury, conspiracy to commit that robbery, burglary with bodily injury and conspiracy to commit that burglary. All are first-degree felonies. Strada faces a maximum of life in prison if found guilty.
Toluba on Wednesday deemed enough evidence exists for Strada to stand trial in York County Court. His formal arraignment is June 28 before Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock. He remains in York County Prison without bail.
Strada and his younger brother, Nicholas Samuel Strada, 17, whom authorities said Wednesday is still at large, are charged in connection with the fatal shooting of Whispering Wind Bear Spirit — previously named Jennifer Jean Makos, according to authorities.
Spirit was shot once in the torso on May 3 inside a friend's home in the 300 block of Smyser Street, according to police. Spirit was rushed to WellSpan York Hospital and died during surgery from liver damage, police said.
Oscar Fink, Spirit's friend, testified Wednesday that the Strada brothers barged into his home unannounced and uninvited the night of the shooting to confront him about some stolen marijuana.
"Ryan had been accusing me of stealing weed from him," Fink testified Wednesday, saying the two had been on good terms until then, which he said was about two days prior to the shooting.
Fink said he "squared up" and "wrestled" Strada in the living room and wasn't aware there was a gun until Spirit became caught up in the deadly conflict.
Spirit — who, according to authorities, was hearing impaired and wore hearing aids — tried to get the intruders out of the home and confronted Nicholas Strada, who had the gun, according to court documents.
"I didn't see the gun till I heard it," Fink said.
The Strada brothers and four other people, who have also been charged in connection with the homicide, all fled when Spirit was shot, according to police. Fink said his wife called 911 when she came downstairs and saw Spirit lying on the floor. Police responded about 11:30 p.m.
"Ryan had organized a manner of getting this weed back," York City Police Det. Daniel Kling testified Wednesday. Kling said surveillance footage from the neighborhood and a scrub of the suspects' cellphones helped investigators pinpoint the Strada brothers' and alleged conspirators' whereabouts that night.
Court-appointed defense attorneys on Wednesday wanted the robbery charges dropped. They argued Fink's testimony suggested that Ryan Strada was allegedly trying to take back his own marijuana. Police also didn't show proof that Strada conspired to kill Spirit that night, his attorneys said.
The four other suspects — who face charges of robbery, burglary and conspiracy to commit both offenses — are Oscar David Cook, 19, of Spring Garden Township; Michael Page Stewart, 22, of Harrisburg; Jaden Tyler Landis, 18, of the Manchester area; and Phillip Cornelius Sullivan, 18, of York Haven.
Toluba also heard from three of the four suspects on Wednesday — Sullivan waived his right to a preliminary hearing; Stewart was granted a 30-day continuance for his preliminary hearing; and Toluba deemed enough evidence exists for Cook to stand trial. Cook's formal arraignment is June 28 before Judge Trebilcock. Landis has a preliminary hearing June 9 before Judge Toluba.
Since 2017, five homicides in York City have been related to marijuana, according to York City Police.