A 51-year-old store owner testified yesterday to the frightening afternoon last month when he was stabbed at least nine times by one of two robbers in his deli in the Eastwick section of Southwest Philadelphia.
When the robber with a knife "went to grab my daughter, that's when I freaked out," Edward Whalen testified. He said he yelled, "Leave her alone!"
Then, the man "kind of like bull-rushes me," said Whalen, who testified that he tried punching the robber, but was stabbed three times on the top of his head, once in the neck, twice in the back and three times in the arm before he fell backward onto the floor.
He and his daughter, Ashley Whalen, 26, identified the man with the knife as Terrell Nelson, 22, one of two defendants held for trial during a preliminary hearing yesterday on charges of attempted murder, robbery, weapons offenses and related offenses.
They identified a second defendant, Zinnah Tobert, 20, as the other robber who came into the store with a gun.
Ashley Whalen testified that she was working at the cash register in her family's store, Whalen's Deli, on Elmwood Avenue near 74th Street, at about 4 p.m. May 4 when Tobert came in and pretended to be a customer.
She said that about five minutes later, Nelson came in holding a knife and wearing a dark bandanna over his nose and mouth. She noticed him when her dad yelled, "Whoa! Whoa!," as Nelson grabbed a customer and put him in a headlock, she said.
Edward Whalen testified that he was handling lottery orders when he saw Nelson grab the customer and shout, "This is a robbery!"
"I said, 'No problem,' " he testified. He said he saw that the other robber had a gun and that he then tried to get his daughter to the back of the store. That's when Nelson tried to grab his daughter, but then "bull-rushed" him when he tried to intervene, the father testified.
Ashley Whalen paused and wept when she recalled her father's being stabbed. "There was blood everywhere. He was just there, holding his head. He was screaming for help."
The daughter said that while her father was being stabbed, the gunman forced her to open the cash register and swiped money from it and took $2 from a nearby cup. He and Nelson then fled, she said.
She also said that she had seen Nelson in the area before the robbery. "He sells DVDs in the bar at 69th and Elmwood," she testified.
Throughout her testimony, Nelson frequently shook his head.
Willie Lee Nattiel Jr., Nelson's attorney, contended that his client was wrongly accused. "Identification in this matter is not sufficient," he argued to the judge.
Earlier in court, he contended that if a DNA analysis on the knife comes back with another person's DNA or no DNA, it "will exonerate my client." Tests are pending on the knife that was recovered.
Tobert's public defender, Michael Garmisa, argued that his client shouldn't be held on the attempted-murder charge.
Assistant District Attorney Lorraine Donnelly argued that both defendants robbed the store as part of a conspiracy, each armed with a deadly weapon.
They went "to do this robbery at whatever cost," she said. *