Joshua Herder appeared "demonic" as he stood over another resident of a group home, then got on top of him and stabbed him twice in the chest, a witness testified yesterday.
Herder was a resident of Glenwood Home, a facility for patients with mental disabilities on Waln Street in Frankford, when he stabbed Robert Kitchen about 6:15 p.m. Oct. 17, Glenwood employee John Hamilton said.
Holding a black-handled knife, "sort of like a butcher knife," Herder walked to where Kitchen was lying on the living-room sofa and said, " 'I'm tired of Kitchen molesting me,' something like that," Hamilton said.
Then after standing over Kitchen for a couple of minutes, Herder got on top of him and "put the knife into Mr. Kitchen" twice in the chest area, Hamilton said.
"It looked scary . . . like something demonic," he said. "That's the only way I can explain it."
Herder, 25, previously of Bucks County, was held for trial yesterday by Municipal Judge James M. DeLeon on two counts each of murder and possession of an instrument of crime.
Herder also is accused of strangling Charles Kirkland, 47, his cell mate in county jail, Dec. 7.
Throughout yesterday's preliminary hearing, Herder, who has dark, thick, curly hair, appeared calm as he sat shackled and dressed in an orange jumpsuit.
In both slayings, he claimed he had been molested by the men he allegedly killed. Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber said after the hearing that "there was no evidence in either case of molestation."
In court, Hamilton said he was in the living room during the October attack. He said he tried to tell Herder to put his knife down. After the attack, he called 9-1-1.
When asked by public defender Karl Schwartz if Herder had severe mental illness, Hamilton agreed.
Hamilton also agreed that he sometimes saw Herder in a delusional state, staring into space as if seeing something not real.
Schwartz asked if Herder had a "trance look" that day. Hamilton said, "Yes," adding that Herder still had that look when he calmly walked away after the stabbing and when police took him away.
Homicide Detective Stephen Buckley read in court two statements Herder allegedly gave.
In an Oct. 17 statement, Herder claimed "Kitchen started molesting me. He put his fingers in my mouth." Herder said he told Kitchen "he [Kitchen] was a dirty old man," to which Kitchen allegedly replied that "he was going to do what he was going to do."
Herder then alleged that Kitchen took out a knife, and they began "tussling."
In a Dec. 7 statement, Herder allegedly confessed to strangling Kirkland about 7:35 p.m. while they were in cell No. 7 inside K Unit, a unit for mentally unstable inmates, at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center.
Herder said he was lying in his bed when Kirkland "tried to put his arm in my butt and I yelled, 'Demon! Get away from me!' "
Herder then said he got a towel and wrapped it around Kirkland's neck. "He [Kirkland] said, 'Let go!' I kept pulling on the towel until he died," Herder said. *