Two teenagers accused of violently carjacking a woman in a King of Prussia Mall parking garage and later crashed her SUV into a SEPTA bus in West Philadelphia will be tried as adults, a judge ruled Wednesday, denying defense attorneys’ requests that the case be moved to Juvenile Court.
Ellijah Simmons and Nyshay Hanton, both 17, face charges of aggravated assault, robbery, and related offenses.
The decision by Montgomery County District Judge William Maruszczak came moments after an Upper Merion police detective described the attack using the victims’ own words.
Detective Andrew Rathfon read aloud from a transcript of a police interview in which the woman said she feared for her life as she was beaten unconscious behind her parked SUV on the first floor of a mall parking garage just before 10 p.m.
“I was losing consciousness very quickly,” she told police. “I dropped my car keys. I yelled, ‘Just take it.’ ”
When she came to, she said, she had been moved so she now lay between her silver Toyota Highlander and another car. Bleeding from the back of her head, Simmons told her, “Don’t move ... I’ll shoot," motioning to his waistband. Officials said she suffered a concussion and cuts and bruises in her head and neck.
The woman, whom police have not identified except to say that she is in her 20s, was not present in the King of Prussia courtroom, just across the street from the mall.
Still recovering from injuries sustained that night, Simmons, of Grays Ferry, and Hanton, of East Frankford, both used walkers to get into the hearing. They arrived in separate police vans. They have been held at Montgomery County Correctional Facility, unable to post bail. Simmons smiled as he entered the building, telling a reporter he was doing so because “you’re in my face and you’re not supposed to be.”
Neither he nor Hanton commented on the allegations against them.
During the hearing, Simmons, who has a broken pelvis and broken hand, appeared to listening intently as three relatives sat behind him. Hanton leaned forward onto her walker, sometimes resting her head on the handle.
Simmons’ lawyer, Adrienne Kosinski, and Hantons’ attorney, Abby Leeds, told the judge the case should be tried in Juvenile Court since no gun was ever recovered or seen being thrown from the vehicle during the 14-mile chase. Therefore, there was never a deadly weapon involved, and the case does not qualify as one in which a teenager can be tried as an adult.
Hanton and Simmons attacked the woman, authorities say, as she walked to her SUV in the mall’s green parking deck after a shift at an undisclosed store. The pair, and a 14-year-old girl who faces the same charges in Juvenile Court, approached the victim as she placed items on her front passenger seat, police say.
The group asked to use her cell phone, authorities said, and the woman told police she gave it to them “very reluctantly" as she believed she was being robbed. As they appeared to dial several phone numbers, Simmons put the woman in a choke hold while one of the female attackers punched her. The woman passed out, gaining consciousness just as her attackers were preparing to flee, authorities said.
As people exited the mall and walked toward the garage, the teens jumped in her car and took off, but were soon spotted by an Upper Merion police officer. Authorities said the group got on the Schuylkill Expressway and headed for the city, refusing to pull over for multiple law enforcement vehicles that joined in the chase along the way.