Pa. Man Ordered To Trial In Road- Rage Killing
DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A man has been ordered to stand trial in a road-rage killing in suburban Philadelphia despite a convicted murderer's refusal to testify against him because, according to prosecutors, he said he and his family had been threatened.
District Judge Joanne Kline ordered Kendell Cottrell, 22, to trial in the death of 18-year-old Ahman Fralin of Bristol Township, who was shot after a minor fender-bender on April 28, 2006. Cottrell has already been sentenced to three to eight years in state prison on drug counts.
Melvin Richardson, who is serving a life term in a January 2007 murder stemming from a botched home invasion robbery, grinned twice at Cottrell but said nothing as Assistant District Attorney Robert James asked about the defendant. James said later that Richardson told authorities that his life and the lives of relatives had been threatened if he testified.
James said the preliminary hearing had been moved from district court to Doylestown due to safety concerns.
A county grand jury in February said Richardson was driving the car of Cottrell's girlfriend in Bristol Township when a car carrying Fralin and three friends hit them from behind. The grand jury alleged that they pursued the vehicle and Cottrell fired into the back window, hitting Fralin in the neck. He died later that year.
Richardson's co-defendant in the home invasion case, 22-yearold Nyako Pippen, did testify at Friday's hearing. He is also serving a life term and is awaiting sentencing in a 2006 murder. Pippen said that after Fralin's death, he heard Cottrell complaining about the attitude of Richardson, who was worried that they would get caught.
On cross-examination by Cottrell's attorney, however, he acknowledged that he did not remember when the conversation took place and had not come forward with the information.
After sending the case for trial, Kline told Cottrell, his friends and family members to have no contact with the witnesses.
"Whatever happens there will never be any closure,'' Ahman Fralin's father, Tony, said after the hearing.
In 2006, the shooting of Fralin was cited in the decision to exclude a suburban high school senior from his graduation due to death threats.
Police said the threats against Tyrone Lewis stemmed from his sister's testimony in a court case, but they also cited the shooting because Lewis had been driving the car and police thought at the time that he might have been the target. Lewis, a star athlete and class president, addressed fellow Harry S Truman High School graduates through a video hookup.