Almost four years after the rapper Nicki Minaj’s tour manager was fatally stabbed outside an East Germantown bar early on Feb. 18, 2015, a Philadelphia man went on trial this week on murder charges.
But he’s not the Philadelphia man originally charged in the case.
Pierce Boykin of Stenton had been held for trial at a preliminary hearing on April 28, 2015. But prosecutors say new evidence points to Khaliyfa Neely, 37, who is now being tried in the slaying of De’Von Pickett, 29, the hip-hop star’s tour manager, in a fight outside Che Bar & Grill, 6364 Stenton Ave.
Prosecutors dropped murder and other charges against Boykin in August 2016, records show. He pleaded guilty to a remaining aggravated assault charge and was sentenced to serve up to 23 months in state prison.
Pickett was in town from New York City with members of Minaj’s band for rehearsals for her European tour, along with Eric Reese — who was wounded in the fight — and Marcus Kincy, 31, of Chicago.
On Thursday, the second day of Neely’s trial, Kincy’s testimony was different from what he had said at Boykin’s preliminary hearing. Then, he said he saw a man fitting Boykin’s description — thin build and average height with glasses — stab Pickett.
But on Thursday, he told the jury, “I did not see the man with the glasses stab ‘Day Day.’ I never saw anyone thrust a knife.”
Trauma from seeing the crime affected his ability to recall details, Kincy said.
“I believe at that time I was just trying to make sense of my friend being gone ... but I believe I answered everything honestly according to what I thought to be true,” Kincy said Thursday.
Instead, Kincy testified, he saw a man fitting Boykin’s description approach Pickett for a fistfight, and assumed that he had seen Boykin stab Pickett.
“We just went where the evidence took us in this case,” said Adam Geer, an assistant district attorney prosecuting the case with Ed Jaramillo.
Travia Allen, who has known Neely for almost two decades and was bartending at Che that night, testified Thursday she had previously maintained an on-again, off-again “friends-with-benefits” relationship with him. On Feb. 17, Neely came to the bar with Boykin and another friend to meet a woman.
Pickett, Kincy, Reese, and two other friends also came to the bar that night to visit Allen, who was romantically involved with Reese, Allen testified.
The fight resulted when Pickett and his friends tried to walk Allen to her car past Neely and his friends when Allen’s shift ended.
Neely is charged with murder, conspiracy, and related counts. The trial is expected to conclude next week.