Witness: Accused Mount Wolf murderer said he would 'smack' victim
Prosecution witnesses in the trial of a Bronx man accused of fatally beating a Mount Wolf woman for stealing his drug-trafficking profits continue to tie the man to Ahshantianna Ali Johnson's March 25, 2017, homicide.
A former York County man took the stand Wednesday morning and told jurors that he previously sold about a pound of marijuana a week for Edia "Richie" Lawrence, who he said fronted him the weed and would then collect 60% of the profits.
Initially, Lawrence would pick up the cash but eventually started sending women to do that, Shaun Whack testified, adding that Johnson picked up the money a week or two before she was killed.
But Whack said that about a week before her death, Lawrence called him to ask if Johnson had picked up the roughly $3,000 that week and Whack confirmed she had.
"(Lawrence said) that she had not contacted him and he was going to smack the s— out of her for playing with his money," Whack testified.
About a week after Johnson's slaying, Lawrence broached the subject again, according to Whack: "He told me the job was done. He said it got handled."
'Came clean': Whack testified that's when he became nervous he was being tied to the homicide, especially because Johnson's family was calling him out on social media.
He went to police and prosecutors "and came clean about everything," he told jurors.
"I wanted to clear my name," he said.
Also Wednesday morning, state Trooper James Welch testified that a phone tied to Lawrence by court testimony pinged off cellphone towers starting east of Allentown a couple of hours before 19-year-old "Shanti" Johnson was brutally beaten in the backyard of her South Second Street home.
The phone moved southwest until it got to the Mount Wolf area, where a call was made from it about 2:15 a.m. — the same general time that three masked men broke into the home Johnson shared with her mother and robbed the older woman, according to the trooper.
The phone then headed back to the Allentown area, Welch testified.
During cross-examination by New York City defense attorney Paul Hirsch, Welch confirmed there was no name associated with the phone and that a second cellphone that was associated with Lawrence remained in New York City during the same time frame.
Other witnesses: On Tuesday afternoon, Dakota Gilbeau testified that Lawrence asked him to go to Johnson's house to see if she was home and told him where she lived.
Gilbeau told jurors he was Facetiming with Lawrence when he knocked on Johnson's door and her little brother answered, saying she wasn't home.
Gilbeau said Lawrence instructed him to get Johnson's new cellphone number but said the brother would not give it out.
Asked why Lawrence wanted Gilbeau to check on Johnson, he testified, "It was because there was money owed ... around $3,000."
Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Johnson, no relation to the victim, testified Wednesday afternoon that Johnson was struck with a heavy blunt instrument and suffered skull fractures, broken facial bones, injuries around the brain and multiple brain injuries including swelling, hemorrhaging and a tear.
She also suffered other injuries to her arms and hands, including broken hand bones, according to Johnson and York Hospital forensic SAFE nurse Brandi Castro.
The background: Lawrence, 21, remains in York County Prison without bail, 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.
He was 18 at the time of Johnson's homicide and was living with his aunt in Conewago Township, where he attended Northeastern High School.
His alleged accomplices in the homicide remain at large, prosecutors have said.
About 2:15 a.m. March 25, 2017, three armed, masked men entered the home Johnson shared with her mother, Noemi Capo, and started stealing property, documents state.
One of the men threatened Capo with a metal baseball bat and a knife, demanding she call her daughter and have her come home, police said.
Capo eventually reached Johnson by phone and told her she needed to come home because there was a family emergency, documents state.
'Beady' eyes: Capo testified this week that she recognized "Richie's" voice and "beady eyes" and also recognized him from the questions he was asking her. She told jurors that her daughter had dated Lawrence on and off since her junior year at Northeastern.
Capo said she escaped the home-invasion robbery by pretending she needed to use the bathroom and fleeing out the back door instead.
That's the same time Johnson returned home and was fatally attacked in her yard, according to testimony.
Johnson and Lawrence had broken up a few months before she was killed, but she apparently was still working for him, Northeastern Regional Police Chief Bryan Rizzo has said.
Whether Johnson was stealing from Lawrence or not doesn't make her death less of a tragedy, the chief said.
"She was just trying to make her way through the world," Rizzo has said. "Unfortunately, she got hooked up with the wrong person ... and paid for it with her life. It's a tragedy to have such a young life full of promise get mixed up with the wrong crowd."
Lawrence, of Torrey Avenue in the Bronx, was arrested in New York City on a warrant filed by Northern York County Regional Police, who allege he tried to shoot a man when a drug deal went bad.
Senior deputy prosecutors Teresa Jauregui and David Maisch are expected to call one witness Thursday before resting their case — a DNA expert.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.