'Homer' Peterson guilty of first-degree murder in York City ambush shooting

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Willie "Homer" Peterson

Convicted murderer Willie C. Peterson III will be back in court next month to be sentenced, but the proceeding is merely a formality.

Known as "Homer," Peterson will receive his punishment of life in prison without parole when he returns to York County Court for sentencing at 2 p.m. Feb. 25.

Jurors on Friday, Jan. 17, convicted Peterson of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Edwin "Joey" Pacheco-Ruiz while he and the victim were in a moving car.

The victim's girlfriend, Lucy Bishop, testified last week at trial that she was in the front passenger seat and that Pacheco-Ruiz was driving when Peterson flagged them down and got in the back driver's side seat on May 28, 2017.

She witnessed Peterson shoot Pacheco-Ruiz as they were driving through the 700 block of East Princess Street, she told jurors.

The victim was shot in the neck, torso and leg, and he died two days later in York Hospital, York City Police have said.

Bishop testified that 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.

That's when Peterson flagged down Pacheco-Ruiz, she said.

Bishop said she didn't know Peterson and had never seen him before.

'Gonna hit': As he got in the car, Peterson said something that Bishop didn't immediately understand, she testified:

"He said that he 'had five' and was 'gonna hit,'" then pulled out a handgun, Bishop said. 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's side door so Bishop could jump to safety. But the car was moving too fast for her to jump, she said.

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.

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.

On the lam: 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, awaiting his sentencing hearing.

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 levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.