Mom of Mount Wolf homicide victim IDs defendant as masked killer
The mother of Mount Wolf homicide victim Ahshantianna Ali Johnson cried throughout much of her trial testimony, during which she identified Edia "Richie" Lawrence as one of three masked men who sneaked into her home March 25, 2017, and terrorized her.
Lawrence and his still-unidentified accomplices badly beat Johnson in the backyard after she returned home, according to senior deputy prosecutor David Maisch. She died five days later at a local hospital.
"They were robbing me and threatening me," Noemi Capo, 43, told jurors on Tuesday. "I was home alone."
Trial began Tuesday morning in York County Court for Lawrence, 21, of the Bronx. He is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit that offense, second-degree murder, robbery, burglary, making terroristic threats, theft, simple assault and receiving stolen property.
Northeastern Regional Police said Lawrence was 18 years old when he mortally wounded Johnson, allegedly for skimming money from his drug-trafficking operation.
Ringleader? Lawrence was the ringleader during the home-invasion robbery, Capo testified, and was armed with a knife and a metal bat. Another robber had a bat as well, she said.
Capo said she was awakened in bed about 2 a.m. by two masked men standing in her bedroom doorway. They didn't say anything and wouldn't answer her questions, she said.
Johnson, 19, called "Shanti" by those who knew her, was at her sister's house babysitting her niece; Capo's 14- and 15-year-old sons were sleeping elsewhere that night.
Capo told jurors she put a robe over her nightgown and walked into her kitchen with the two masked men.
"There was a third one taking my TVs out of the house," she said, and identified Lawrence in court as the third masked man.
Capo told jurors she recognized the third man as Lawrence, despite his mask.
'Beady eyes': "He has beady eyes," she testified. "Very distinctive."
Capo said her daughter and Lawrence dated on and off for a couple of years starting in her junior year at Northeastern High School. Although Lawrence is from the Bronx, he had been living in Conewago Township with his aunt and attending Northeastern.
She told jurors the men ransacked her home and stole televisions, Johnson's sneakers and jacket, Capo's cash and cellphone and other items.
Capo said that during the robbery, Lawrence hit her pit bull Ashton twice in the ribs with the bat and asked her "where my football and basketball playing sons were."
She explained to jurors that Lawrence had played basketball with her sons when he was dating Johnson.
"He ... asked me where Shanti was," Capo testified, and said Lawrence used the name "Shanti," not "Ahshantianna." That's when one of the accomplices, in a Bronx accent, said, "Oh no — we don't know your daughter. Where's your daughter?"
Capo said Lawrence, while still holding the knife and bat, forced her to call Johnson and convince her to return home.
Threats made? "Richie said if I would yell or make any kind of noise, he would bash my head in," she testified. She had to keep her phone on speaker while making the call.
"I told her she needed to come home, there was a family emergency," Capo said, but Johnson said she couldn't leave her niece.
"He said that wasn't good enough," and made Capo try again, she testified.
Capo said she convinced her daughter to come home during the second call, after which Lawrence took her phone.
"He kept looking at it with a grin on his face," she said.
Capo told jurors she was able to run out the back door and escape on the pretext of using the bathroom.
As she knocked on doors in vain to summon help, Capo saw her daughter's car drive past her, she said, and she kept knocking on doors until someone answered at the home of one of her son's coaches.
Crying audibly, Capo testified the coach's wife tried to get her to sit down because her bare feet were cut up, but Capo had the coach drive her home, where officers were already on scene.
Heard victim moaning: Also testifying Tuesday was Northeastern Regional Police Office Shaun Goodman, the first officer to arrive at Capo's home on South Second Street in Mount Wolf.
Goodman testified he heard groaning coming from Capo's backyard — "almost like a gurgling" — and found Johnson lying on the ground, her face covered with blood and her hair bloody and matted.
He said everything in Capo's home had been ransacked; mattresses were overturned, dresser drawers were yanked out and belongings were scattered everywhere.
Lawrence's murder trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday and is expected to end this week.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.