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Philly man held for trial in killing of ex-girlfriend at Abington train station

Gilbert Newton III has been charged with first- and third-degree murder and related offenses in the death of Morgan McCaffery.

Morgan McCaffery was found stabbed at SEPTA's Meadowbrook train station in July. Hours later, police arrested her ex-boyfriend, Gilbert Newton III at his home in Fox Chase.
Morgan McCaffery was found stabbed at SEPTA's Meadowbrook train station in July. Hours later, police arrested her ex-boyfriend, Gilbert Newton III at his home in Fox Chase.Read moreFrank Wiese / Staff

An 18-year-old Philadelphia man was held for trial on murder and weapon charges Wednesday in the fatal July stabbing of his ex-girlfriend at a SEPTA Regional Rail station in Abington Township.

Gilbert Newton III, of Fox Chase, allegedly killed Morgan McCaffery, also 18, of Abington, about a month after she ended their yearlong relationship.

During a hearing in Norristown before Magisterial District Court Judge John Kessler, Newton’s attorney sought to cast doubt on the evidence presented by Assistant District Attorney Kathleen McLaughlin. But McLaughlin noted Newton’s admission to detectives who arrested him at his family’s home in the city, as well as the relationship he had with McCaffery.

“This is not a whodunit,” she said.

» READ MORE: A Montgomery County teen’s murder is just one tragic example of relationship violence among young people

The evidence showed that early on July 27, McCaffery, who had recently graduated from Nazareth Academy, an all-girls Catholic school in Northeast Philadelphia, agreed to meet Newton at the Meadowbrook station to talk.

There, police said, the discussion turned violent. Newton stabbed and slashed McCaffery more than 30 times in the head, chest and neck with a kitchen knife, and left her next to her idling Toyota RAV4 SUV in a secluded, wooded parking lot, authorities said.

Passersby found McCaffery about 8:15 a.m. She was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. Two knives were recovered there, county Detective Edward Schekel said during Wednesday’s hearing, one of which was broken, its blade snapped off and found lying in a pool of blood near McCaffery’s vehicle. They matched a larger set of kitchen knives detectives said they later found in Newton’s home.

A witness reported seeing a white man standing over McCaffery before fleeing from the scene in a white Jeep, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office said. Newton’s mother called 911 after he had returned home in bloodstained clothes, according to the affidavit of probable cause in his arrest.

Around 10 that morning, Philadelphia police went to Newton’s home and found a white Jeep parked outside with blood on the outside of the driver’s side door, and found Newton wearing bloody clothing. The teen confessed to the officers that he had stabbed “his girlfriend at the train station,” the affidavit said.

McCaffery’s current boyfriend later told detectives that Newton had been texting her the night before, and had asked to meet at the station to “discuss their breakup,” the affidavit said.

A friend of McCaffery’s separately told police that Newton had been abusive to her during their relationship, but had been recently attempting to patch things up, according to the affidavit.

Newton’s lawyer, A. Charles Peruto Jr., called the death “a sad case on both sides,” but contended prosecutors hadn’t proven Newton’s involvement.

“No [witness] ever said ‘Yes, this is the vehicle,' and no one ever said ‘Yes this is the murderer,’” Peruto said.

But the judge wasn’t swayed and ordered him held for trial.

McCaffery had been planning to attend Manor College in the fall. A message posted by Nazareth Academy a day after her death described her as “a light to those whom she encountered,” noting that she always put others first and had recently organized, assembled and distributed care packages to Abington Hospital nurses.

After the hearing Wednesday, McCaffery’s family members said they were pleased with the outcome, and thanked the community for supporting them.

“We just ask that everyone keeps us in their thoughts and prayers as we move toward the trial we were granted today,” said Frank McCaffery, Morgan’s uncle and godfather. “Morgan is a beautiful, special, incredible young woman, and we will honor her every single day.”