A former Navy seaman from the city's Frankford section was held for trial yesterday on murder and weapons charges in last year's shooting death of 5-year-old Cashae Rivers.
Noel "Pablo" Garcia, 23, was the second man to be charged in the murder of Cashae, who was riding in the back seat of a white Oldsmobile in Strawberry Mansion when she was shot.
The district attorney's office initially charged Kevin Felder, now 26, of Strawberry Mansion, with her death. But in May, charges were dropped against Felder before his trial after new evidence showed he was wrongly arrested.
Yesterday, testimony in Garcia's preliminary hearing before Municipal Court Judge Nazario Jimenez Jr. revealed that it was Garcia who allegedly shot Cashae at 34th and Huntingdon streets about 10:30 a.m. Sept. 24.
Testimony also indicated that Garcia - not Felder - allegedly shot and injured a man earlier that morning on nearby Spangler Street.
Garcia's defense attorney, David Bahuriak, said after the hearing that prosecutors again have the wrong man.
Prosecutor Jennifer Selber, however, said, "We're confident he's [Garcia's] the right guy."
Earlier in court, witness Jeremiah Battle, 25, testified that he was a passenger in Garcia's car when Garcia fired at the Oldsmobile because he thought men whom he shot at earlier were in it.
Only later that day did Garcia learn that a young girl had been killed, Battle said.
"Pablo started getting hysterical, angry, started sweating, acting strange," Battle testified.
Battle said that the Saturday night before the shooting, he, Garcia, Felder and Anthony Brown were at a party. Brown had been shot Friday night and wanted to get even, Battle said.
That Sunday morning, Sept. 24, Battle said, Garcia picked him up along with another man, ".40 Cal" - later identified as Calvin Caldwell - on Lesher Street in Frankford in a greenish-blue rental car with Virginia tags. They headed to North Philadelphia to buy marijuana and Xanax, Battle said.
While driving on a small street - later identified as Spangler Street - Garcia saw three men sitting on steps outside a house and said, "There are the guys right there," Battle testified.
Garcia pulled out a gun, reached across the passenger seat and fired, Battle said.
In that shooting, Michael Seeney, one of the three men on the steps, was grazed in the hip.
Garcia then drove off and, shortly afterward, a white Oldsmobile appeared on Huntingdon Street. Garcia, thinking that men from the other group were inside, "pulls out the gun and shoots about five to six times," Battle testified.
They were mistaken about the Olds' occupants.
Cashae's mother, Alisha Corley, now 23, testified yesterday that she was driving the Olds and was heading to an auto detail shop. Her younger sister, Ashley Corley, then 16, was in the front passenger seat. In the back sat her close friend Tynah Green, then 18; Alisha Corley's then-1-year-old son, Romar Berry Jr; and Cashae. Cashae was struck once in the back and died shortly afterward.
Battle testifed that later that day, back in Frankford, Garcia, who earlier had dropped him off, returned in his car with Felder and Brown. Felder was driving. Garcia bragged that he had just killed a man, Battle testified. Prosecutors would not elaborate yesterday on this shooting, citing the open investigation.
Battle said he first told homicide detectives on Nov. 23 that Garcia shot Cashae. "They acted like they didn't believe me and said Kevin Felder did it," said Battle, who recanted his statement to detectives the next day.
Garcia yesterday also was held on attempted-murder and related offenses with regard to the four other people in the Oldsmobile.
Garcia joined the U.S. Navy in 2002. He was arrested May 21 in Norfolk, Va., where he was stationed and served as a cook. He since has been discharged.
Felder, who was exonerated in Cashae's murder after Garcia's arrest, had been in custody until his release Aug. 28.
On Aug. 27, a Common Pleas jury acquitted Felder of witness-intimidation and related offenses in a Dec. 23, 2005, shooting in which Jason Couch, an alleged witness to a homicide earlier that day, was the intended victim.
Public defender Elizabeth McHugh, Felder's attorney in this case, said yesterday that she believed her client was not present at that shooting. Couch was shot at, but not hit. Prosecutor John Doyle said he believed that Felder had been rightly charged in this case.
Couch, who testified at Felder's preliminary hearing on this case, could not be located for the trial. *