As the murder trial began Wednesday for the man accused of fatally shooting a 25-year-old walking his dog in Brewerytown last year, prosecutors asked jurors to focus on two key pieces of evidence: A belt and a pair of shoes.
Because although the killing of Milan Loncar was captured on surveillance video, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said in her opening statement that no eyewitnesses will be able to testify that 21-year-old Josephus Davis was the gunman.
But she said video of the murder during a botched robbery attempt will show Loncar’s assailant wearing a distinctive pair of sneakers and a flashy belt. And several hours after the murder, Pescatore said, when Davis was stopped by police in Kensington after jumping out of a stolen car in an unrelated crime, he was wearing the same belt and shoes as Loncar’s killer.
That evidence helped lead authorities to charge Davis in the shooting death of Loncar, the prosecutor said, and she urged jurors to rely on it to convict him of murder and related offenses.
“You can see these clothes,” Pescatore said. “Everything he’s wearing is the same as the person in the murder.”
But Davis’ lawyer, Douglas Dolfman, told jurors the prosecution’s case was weak. He said Davis was hardly the only in person in Philadelphia who liked wearing eye-catching belts and shoes, and suggested it was a leap to say that Davis’ attire proved he shot Loncar.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to make that jump when we’re finished,” Dolfman said, calling the prosecution “all circumstantial.”
Those dueling portraits of the crime kicked off what is expected to be a multi-day trial for Davis. The crime attracted widespread attention when it happened last year, and friends and relatives of both Davis and Loncar packed an overflow courtroom to watch the Wednesday’s proceedings.
Loncar, a Wayne native who graduated from Temple University in 2019, was shot at 31st and Jefferson Streets last January, about a block from his Brewerytown home. Pescatore said Loncar had taken his dog out for a short walk and clearly hadn’t planned on being out in the cold for long — he wore a sweater, not a jacket, and carried only his phone and his keys.
But as he passed two men on the sidewalk, Pescatore said, they boxed him in, and one of them — Davis — pulled a gun. The men struggled, and Davis fired a shot, Pescatore said. Loncar was struck in the chest, and collapsed on the street as his attackers ran away.
Several hours later, Pescatore said, Davis was stopped by police at B Street and Indiana Avenue after officers noticed a car they believed had been stolen in a carjacking the day before.
Davis and two other men hopped out and ran, Pescatore said. When officers caught Davis and questioned him, he was wearing the distinctive belt and shoes.
Pescatore also said some of Davis’ clothing had ballistics residue on it, though Dolfman said he expected to challenge the validity of that evidence — and its connection to Loncar’s killing — during trial.
Davis, who lived a few blocks from the scene of the shooting, was charged several days after the murder. His alleged accomplice has not been arrested.
When Loncar was killed, Davis was on probation for robbery and was awaiting trial on carjacking charges and assaulting a jail guard. But he had been released from custody two weeks before the murder, leading critics to question District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office for its handling of those cases and wonder aloud whether different decision-making could have prevented Loncar’s death.
Those issues are unlikely to play a significant part in Davis’ trial, which is expected to last at least until the end of this week. He faces life behind bars if convicted.
In testimony Wednesday afternoon, several police officers took the stand, including a homicide detective who pieced together a compilation of surveillance videos and played it for the jury.