Did convicted drug dealer Steven Northington order the killing of rival drug dealer Barry Parker, after obsessing in jail about someone taking over his corner?
Or did Northington get pinned with Parker's murder by a "corrupt and polluted" government witness, Eugene "Twin" Coleman, who pleaded "no contest" to another murder?
Today, Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina is expected to deliver the verdict from the bench, after Northington waived a jury trial.
Within a day of the Feb. 23, 2003, murder, detectives knew that Northington had told Parker to get off his drug corner, said Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson during closing arguments yesterday.
Homicide Detective James Burns, who investigated the Parker murder, quickly learned that Northington had been arrested earlier for allegedly dealing drugs at 7th and Pike streets in Hunting Park.
But detectives had to gather more evidence to prove he hired a contract killer to pull the trigger, he added. "This was not a 'whodunit.' "
"Don't let me catch you on the corner," Northington warned Parker before threatening to close down the Hunting Park corner, according to Gilson.
"Northington wanted Barry Parker dead," he added. "He was ranting and raving and made repeated threats 'not to mess with my boys' or he would be aired out" - a street phrase meaning to be killed.
Immediately before the murder, Northington had circled the block three times in his car, said Gilson. "He sent an armed assassin to shoot three times at point-blank range in [Parker's] chest."
Afterward, Northington disappeared from the Hunting Park neighborhood and hid at the home of convicted drug dealer Kaboni Savage, to whom he had sent letters while jailed requesting that Savage protect his corner and product, he added.
When detectives picked up Northington on April 7, 2003, he had shaved his head, changing his appearance, said Gilson.
But Northington's attorney, Thomas McGill, argued that at least two witnesses had changed their stories to fit the evidence, such as the time of day when they saw Northington.
McGill said that Coleman had told authorities about Northington's alleged involvement in the Parker murder two years after it occurred while he was cooperating.
Coleman testified last week against Northington.
In an attempt to discredit Coleman, McGill said he blamed the murder of his drug partner, Tyrone Tolliver, on another drug dealer, Kareem "Blunt" Bluntly, now dead, and later pleaded "no contest to Tolliver's murder.
After viewing videotapes outside of Coleman's apartment on Palmetto Street, McGill asked why wasn't Bluntly the one moving the car during the murder: "Why is Coleman the one moving the body?"
After Coleman began to cooperate with the feds in a probe of the Kaboni Savage drug organization, his mother's North Philadelphia home was firebombed, killing her, his 15-year-old son and four others.
The October 2003 murders are still unsolved. *