Girlfriend IDs alleged York City killer from witness stand
The girlfriend of homicide victim Edwin Pacheco-Ruiz testified against his accused killer in York County Court on Tuesday, insisting Willie C. Peterson III was the man who shot him in 2017 while all three were in a moving car.
The 29-year-old Pacheco-Ruiz, known to friends and family as "Joey," was driving that vehicle and repeatedly called Peterson "Homer" while urging him not to shoot, Lucy Bishop told jurors on Tuesday, Jan. 14, the second day of Peterson's first-degree murder trial.
Pacheco-Ruiz was shot in the neck, torso and leg by his backseat passenger as he drove through the 700 block of East Princess Street on May 28, 2017, according to York City Police, who have said Peterson is known as "Homer."
Pachecho-Ruiz died from his injuries two days later at York Hospital, police have said.
Bishop was in the front passenger seat and saw the shooting. Senior deputy prosecutor David Maisch called her to the witness stand on Tuesday.
After sitting down, she put her right hand against her face in an effort to block her view of the defendant and remained that way throughout much of her testimony and lengthy cross-examination.
She told jurors she and Pacheco-Ruiz had been dating about seven months and had just dropped off his son at the boy's mother's home. She said she and Pacheco-Ruiz then decided to head to a York City bar.
Flagged down: Bishop said a man flagged down Pacheco-Ruiz, who stopped and let him in the back seat of the vehicle.
The man who got in was Peterson, according to Bishop, who said she had never seen him before.
As he got in the car, Peterson said something that didn't Bishop didn't immediately understand, she testified:
"He said that he 'had five' and was 'gonna hit,'" then pulled out a handgun, Bishop testified. Police have said the phrase appears to be a shooting reference, as in, "I have five bullets."
Pacheco-Ruiz repeatedly told Peterson not to do it and called him Homer a number of times, according to Bishop.
"I turned around and asked him to please not do this," she told jurors.
She said her boyfriend was driving fast down city streets and at one point leaned over and opened the front passenger-side door so Bishop could jump to safety. But she said the car was moving too fast for her to jump.
Pacheco-Ruiz also tried to open the driver's side rear door, where Peterson was sitting, in an effort to get him out of the car, Bishop testified.
Gunfire: But Peterson fired twice, causing Pacheco-Ruiz to collapse into Bishop's lap, she said.
"I grabbed the wheel of the car," but she couldn't avoid a collision, Bishop testified. "We crashed into a ... house."
As the crash was happening, Bishop saw a flash that might have been a third gunshot, she testified.
Asked by Maisch whether the shooter was in the courtroom and if she could point him out, Bishop put her hands over her face and cried, but she eventually looked at Peterson and confirmed he was the man who killed Pacheco-Ruiz.
During a contentious cross-examination, defense attorney Tom Kelley asked Bishop a number of questions about whether she told police the killer was "Homer" or whether she told them "Omar."
Neither Kelley nor Bishop mentioned in court that the two names sound quite similar.
The cross-examination went on for 45 minutes, at which point presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook adjourned for lunch. Kelley said he expected his cross-examination to continue after the lunch break.
Unknown motive: Neither police nor prosecutors have identified a motive for the killing.
Peterson was a wanted fugitive for nearly three months. He remains in York County Prison without bail.
Members of the U.S. Marshals Service captured him Aug. 15, 2017, in a home in the 700 block of East King Street, according to police.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.