By Dan Majka and Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Police have charged two men in connection with a carjacking and hit-and-run crash that killed three children in North Philadelphia.
During a press conference at police headquarters this afternoon, authorities announced numerous charges against 19-year-old Jonathan Rosa and 22-year-old Cornelius Crawford.
Rosa surrendered to authorities Sunday with his mother and his pastor at his side. Crawford was arrested by a team of Philadelphia Police and federal agents Sunday evening near 6th and Cambria Streets in North Philadelphia.
Rosa, in an alleged confession, told police Crawford was speeding when the victim’s car in which they were making their getaway blew a tire.
Christopher Warren, Rosa’s defense attorney, says his client, who planned to enter the Marine Corps in upcoming weeks, told his mother he was shaken after seeing pictures of the young victims. He surrendered with her, then made a full confession.
Records show Crawford had been released on parole in April, 2013 after serving the minimum of a 5-13 year sentence for robbery. The parole board, citing in its decision, the convict’s “determination for success.”
Captain James Clark, who commands the homicide unit, says the first major break in the case came when a neighbor, who raced to the accident scene to help the victims, found a phone and turned it over to police. Detectives then traced the phone to one of the suspects.
“It was a great collaboration between the police and the community and that ultimately led to this arrest,” said Clark.
Clark also praised neighbors and local business owners who came forward offering surveillance videos that they hoped might help solve the crime.
“I just want to thank the public for all of their assistance,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.
A search for the two suspects began Friday morning when three children, 15-year-old Keiearra Williams, 10-year-old Joseph Reed and 7-year-old Terrence Moore, were struck and killed by an out of control, stolen SUV while selling fruit at the intersection of Germantown and Allegheny Avenues in the city’s Tioga neighborhood.
The children’s mother, 34-year-old Keisha Williams, was also injured in the crash. She remained in critical condition Monday at Temple University Hospital.
The carjacking victim, who police say was abducted at random by the suspects, also remains hospitalized. Police claim that in addition to be robbed and injured in the crash, she was sexually assaulted during the ordeal leading up to the accident.
Both men were charged with three counts of second-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery, theft, kidnapping, carjacking, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, sexual assault and aggravated assault.
They face life in prison, if convicted.
Police say both suspects are awaiting arraignment.
Funeral arrangements for the children are still pending. However, District Attorney Seth Williams announced Monday at a news conference that Sixers legend Charles Barkley has offered to pay for the children’s funeral.
Philadelphia City Council Darrell Clarke told CBS 3 the city is already exploring ways to turn the crash scene into a permanent memorial for those who were killed.
The two men were arraigned early Tuesday morning.
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