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Mount Wolf homicide suspect to face trial
The mother of Mount Wolf homicide victim Ahshantianna Johnson identified Johnson's on-and-off boyfriend Wednesday morning as the man who forced her to summon her daughter home to her eventual death.
During a preliminary hearing at the York County Judicial Center, Noemi Capo, 41, took the witness stand to testify that she recognized Edia Lawrence, 18, as one of the three men who ransacked her home on South Second Street in the borough early on March 25.
“He has an orange jumpsuit on,” Capo said, pointing at Lawrence, when asked to identify the man she recognized.
Lawrence, of Torrey Avenue in the Bronx, New York, will face trial on numerous charges after District Judge Robert Eckenrode ruled the state met the burden of proof to proceed with its case against him.
Lawrence, who police say sometimes stayed at his aunt’s home on Matthews Drive in Conewago Township, faces charges of homicide, burglary, theft, receiving stolen property, simple assault, making terroristic threats and several counts of robbery.
Northeastern Regional Police Officer Shaun Goodman testified Wednesday that he found Johnson lying unresponsive on an embankment behind the home shortly after 4 a.m. March 25. Johnson was breathing and had a pulse, but she had a laceration and “a massive amount of blood" on her face, Goodman said.
Johnson, 19, was transported from the scene to York Hospital, where she died of head trauma five days later.
Home invasion: Capo said she woke up about 2:15 a.m. March 25 after her lights were turned on, and she saw two masked men standing in her bedroom doorway.
The two men did not say anything for several minutes, so she got out of bed and put a robe on, she said.
When one of the men began talking, Capo testified, she recognized his voice as that of “Richie,” her daughter’s on-and-off boyfriend since 2015.
Minutes later she saw a third man in the home gathering items, she said.
After the three men took two TVs, a PlayStation console, sneakers, clothing, a book bag and cash, Lawrence asked for Capo’s phone and told her to get Johnson to come home, Capo said.
She testified that she called Johnson, but the woman didn’t answer the first time. Before calling a second time, “he told me not to scream or say anything, or he would hit me. He would bash my head in,” Capo said.
She testified Lawrence was armed with a baseball bat and a knife.
Capo said she reached Johnson and told her to come home, but Lawrence wasn’t satisfied and told her to call again. Johnson then told her mother she would need 20 minutes to get home, she said.
While driving home, Johnson was texting her mother’s phone to see if everything was OK, Capo said. While reading those messages aloud, Lawrence was laughing at them, she said.
Courtroom uproar: During defense attorney Jack McMahon’s cross-examination of the victim’s mother, Capo again testified that Lawrence threatened her to get her to call Johnson home.
“If I did not call my daughter, I would get my head bashed in,” Capo said.
“And so you called your daughter to get her head bashed in,” McMahon asked rhetorically, evoking outcries from several of the 20 or so people there in support of Johnson.
McMahon’s line of questioning also drew a strong rebuke from Eckenrode.
“Sir, I’m not arguing with you — be quiet while I talk,” the judge said. “You will control your cross (examination).”
Capo testified that Lawrence forced her to call and check her bank account balance. Knowing Lawrence would use the speakerphone, Capo said she called to check the balance on her child-support card.
When Lawrence heard the balance of the account was $3.56, he “got pissed and said I was broke,” Capo told the court.
Escape: After calling Johnson, Capo said she asked Lawrence to use the bathroom, at which point she ran out the home’s back door. Capo testified that she ran to several neighbors’ homes and banged on their doors but no one answered.
After again getting no response at the Georgia-Pacific building on Walnut Street, she said she opened a car door and set off an alarm.
Capo said she hid in a corner, not knowing if any of the three men were chasing her. While hiding, she saw Johnson drive by on her way home.
“I couldn’t do anything to stop my daughter driving home,” she said.
Capo said she then ran to a home in the area that had lights on inside, where she was able to call 911.
Investigation: Officer Goodman said he was dispatched to the home on South Second Street at 3:48 a.m., about 90 minutes after the home invasion started.
During his 10-minute drive to respond to the call, York County 911 dispatches indicated the suspects might still be on scene, exiting the rear of the home, Goodman said.
After finding no suspects and no vehicles other than Johnson’s in the driveway area behind the home, Goodman said he parked a block away and returned to the front of the home to meet another officer.
After finding the front door ajar, Goodman said he went to the rear of the home, where he observed a key in the door’s deadbolt.
That’s when he heard Johnson’s moaning and found her 50 to 75 feet from the home, suffering from head injuries, Goodman testified.
After Johnson was transported by emergency medical services, Goodman said he and another officer entered the rear of the home. During a “cursory” search, Goodman said every bedroom was torn apart and the downstairs looked “disheveled.”
“In my experience, it looked like somebody was looking for something,” Goodman said.
Goodman said he relinquished the crime scene to Northeastern Regional Police Detective Brian O’Melko an hour or two after first arriving on the scene.
O’Melko testified Wednesday that Capo did not know Lawrence’s real name, but she identified “Richie” as one of the men involved after she returned to the scene March 25.
O’Melko said he then obtained the real identity of “Richie” by speaking to a teacher at Northeastern High School who has had both Lawrence and Johnson in his classes.
Lawrence remains in York County Prison without bail. His formal arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. July 7.