A Common Pleas jury yesterday convicted a 28-year-old Germantown man of first-degree murder and related offenses in the brutal 2004 knifepoint slaying of his girlfriend Asia Adams - a promising 21-year-old West Chester University student.
Defendant Thomas Strode - who showed no emotion when the verdicts were read - then agreed to give up all his appellate rights in return for the commonwealth not seeking the death penalty against him.
Before sentencing Strode to a mandatory term of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Judge Peter F. Rogers said that this "is the most vicious case I have ever been involved in" either as a jurist or as an attorney.
"The horror that that young lady went through," the judge said. "I can't even imagine what pain she went through."
A medical examiner testified, the judge said, that "she was alive when her throat was cut."
Strode and co-defendant Simeon Bozic, who was convicted of first-degree murder and related offenses last year, beat Adams with a shovel in the basement of her Germantown home on the night of Nov. 7, 2004. They then took a kitchen knife and slashed her throat several times.
The next day, the pair returned to her home, on Seymour Street near Pulaski Avenue, carried her body to a second-floor bed, and set it on fire. They also withdrew money from her bank account.
Strode, who had known Adams for about four months, confessed to the killing after hours of police interrogation. He did not testify at his trial.
Yesterday, before sentencing, he chose not to speak in court.
The judge gave Strode a second chance to speak. Strode declined.
Rogers then asked if that meant he had no remorse. To that, Strode blurted out: "I didn't say that at all."
Strode said he showed remorse "in my cell block, three years ago." Asked to whom, Strode replied: "To God."
Strode did not once turn back to look at Adams' mother, who was in the courtroom.
After the sentencing, Adams' mother, Shelah Harper, who sat through both trials, said: "It's over. It's been a nightmare. . . . It just lets me know that our children are in major trouble."
In a pained, determined voice, she added: "There's been a bunch of children that haven't been raised, and they're angry, and they do mean things to people."
Harper has set up a foundation, www.asiaadamssaveourchildren.org, with the mission of helping youngsters build healthy, productive lives through education, advocacy and support services.
The foundation "is the only thing that gets me up and moving every day," she said. "To the last breath that I have in my body, in love to my child, this is what I will do, and I will do it with a vengeance."
The jury of nine men and three women reached its verdict about 2 p.m. on its second day of deliberations. It also convicted Strode of robbery, arson, possession of an instrument of crime and conspiracy to commit murder. The judge sentenced Strode to a consecutive 20 to 40 years on the other charges.
In his statement to a homicide detective, Strode, when asked why Adams was killed, did not go into much detail, but said: "It was basically started from an argument about Simeon and me. She started yelling at me."
Strode, nicknamed "Napoleon," was described as a ladies' man by his attorney, J. Michael Farrell, who had argued that Bozic alone killed Adams.
Prosecutor Carlos Vega suggested, without explicitly saying so, in his closing argument that Adams may have been killed after discovering Strode and Bozic in a homosexual relationship.
Bozic testified as a prosecution witness at Strode's trial. Vega said yesterday that as a result of Bozic's cooperation, he will no longer seek the death penalty against Bozic, and will instead ask for a sentence of life in prison. *