Teen Charged with Rape-Murder of Northern Liberties Waitress
by KYW’s Tony Hanson
Philadelphia police say are charging a Philadelphia teenager with the rape and murder of Sabina Rose O’Donnell, the Northern Liberties woman attacked and killed outside her home in the early-morning hours of June 2nd.
Investigators say 18-year-old Donte Johnson, of the 900 block of North 11th St., is the man seen riding a bicycle in surveillance video police had released last week as part of their investigation.
It was Johnson’s mother, according to police, who tipped off investigators. The suspect, accompanied by some family members, turned himself in Tuesday night.
Multiple police sources say Johnson has confessed. Homicide captain James Clark held a press conference on Wednesday outside the police administration building:
“I am not going to comment on what he may or may not have said upstairs. The only thing I can tell you is that through our investigation, originally it started out that this was going to be a robbery of a bike, Sabina then screamed, and from that point on it turned into a really gruesome, heinous murder.”
Capt. Clark says Johnson is a predator who had been riding his bike in the neighborhood looking for victims before he spotted O’Donnell headed home from work, followed her, and killed her outside her home in the 1200 block of North 4th Street.
KYW’s Hadas Kuznits reports that news of an arrest has brought a sense of relief to Northern Liberties.
Tommy Up, O’Donnell’s former employer at PYT Restaurant, was instrumental in organizing her public memorial:
“We’re all really emotional. We all sat around and watched the press conference on the office computer and we’re all high-fiving each other. We’re all getting text messages coming in, everyone’s very excited. We’re all happy there’s some closure.”
Matt Ruben is president of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association:
“I think the community’s relieved that they found the person and that he’s not going to be going around and being a threat to other women in the community.”
What do other neighbors think about this recent news?
(Neighbor #1:) “Well, certainly I think it’s great if it is the right person.”
(Neighbor #2:) “If he’s proven guilty, I hope the suspect faces the right justice.”
KYW’s Tony Hanson reported on June 10th that Philadelphia police released surveillance video they hoped would help them identify the “person of interest” in the murder of Sabina O’Donnell.
Surveillance video near Fourth and Girard showed what police believe are the final moments of O’Donnell’s life, before she was sexually assaulted and strangled.
Homicide captain James Clark said the video shows a man on a bicycle turn and follow O’Donnell after they cross paths:
“We have video of this individual on a bike. You’re going to see him several times, riding around in the area before the crime takes place. Then you’re going to see Sabina ride by on her bike. Then you’re going to see this individual on his bike go after her.”
Clark describes the man on the bike as a black man wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and blue jeans. Clark says a t-shirt and a good amount of DNA were recovered at the crime scene.
The day after the June 2nd murder, homicide captain James Clark said the autopsy on victim Sabina Rose O’Donnell had been completed:
“The cause of death is death by strangulation and it has been confirmed a sexual assault did take place.”
Clark says investigators have also narrowed the window during which O’Donnell was attacked outside her home in the 1200 block of North 4th Street:
“Yeah, we believe now it happened between 2:30 am and 3:45am. So again, we are asking for the public’s help if anyone saw anything, heard anything between those areas, please contact the homicide unit.”
Multiple sources confirmed that police recovered potentially crucial evidence: DNA from the crime scene.
KYW’s Paul Kurtz reported the day after O’Donnell’s body was found that the Citizens Crime Commission announced a $25,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the man who murdered her.
Northern Liberties is one of the hottest, trendiest neighborhoods in the city. But as it undergoes a major facelift, well-to-do residents are finding there is danger just around the corner from the life of luxury:
“Well, you can bet I’m not leaving my house without my dog anymore. You have the impression that’s sort of a safe neighborhood but I think that it’s a little bit naïve to feel that way. ”
“I definitely would try to stay more often with my friends and not leave places alone, for sure.”
The Town Watch program is on high alert and a newly opened martial arts academy is offering a class in self defense.