Two men who carjacked a woman and sexually assaulted her in her SUV before plowing into a family selling fruit on a street corner, killing three children, were charged with murder on Monday, police said.
Johnathan Rosa and Cornelius Crawford were each charged with three counts of felony murder and other crimes, police announced at a news conference. Police said they believe Rosa, 19, and Crawford, 23, forced a real estate agent into her sport utility vehicle on Friday, then took off at high speed.
The three children, killed by the SUV crash about 15 minutes later, were siblings who had been selling fruit for a church fundraiser. Their mother was injured in the crash, as were a friend who was nearby and the carjacked real estate agent.
Police said that what Rosa and Crawford did “was indefensible and unforgiveable.”
“Whatever remorse they may or may not have does not bring back these three children,” Police Homicide Capt. James Clark said Monday.
The arrests and charges capped a three-day manhunt by police, who received help from businesses offering security footage and people calling in tips about the Friday morning carjacking.
Police ultimately were led to the suspects, though, by Rosa’s cellphone, which was found in the back of the stolen Toyota 4Runner.
Rosa told police on Saturday that his phone had been stolen, and he was released. However, he turned himself in a day later, his lawyer said, after he saw photographs of the dead children in a newspaper.
“He can’t get the image of the girl flying over the hood of the SUV out of his mind,” defense lawyer Christopher Warren said.
Former NBA star Charles Barkley, who played for the Philadelphia 76ers, has offered to pay for the children’s funerals, officials said.
The SUV accident occurred about a mile from the carjacking site. Witnesses reported seeing a vehicle speeding through the intersection, then children lying motionless on the ground.
Keiearra Williams, 15, and her brothers, Thomas Reed, 10, and Terrence Moore, 7, were killed. Their mother, Keisha Williams, 34, was still hospitalized Monday, as were her friend and the carjacking victim.
Rosa said Crawford was driving very fast and out of control and a tire blew while he was trying to turn, Clark said, referring to Rosa’s police statement.
Warren maintained that Rosa got in the vehicle after Crawford carjacked it, a decision he said the teen would long regret. He said Rosa is now cooperating with police.
Police officials, though, said both men had carjacked the real estate agent as she left a house showing in north Philadelphia.
Crawford had recently been released from prison after serving about five years for robbery. He was in custody Monday and could not be reached for comment. He did not have a lawyer in the case.
Crawford and Rosa had known each other only a few days when Crawford noticed the woman driving down the street and decided to carjack her, Warren said.
Police initially said the woman was forced into the backseat at gunpoint. Warren, however, said he believed Rosa’s cellphone may have been wrapped up in a T-shirt and brandished like a weapon. Prosecutors confirmed there was no weapon charge in the case.