Helen Foreman, a phone operator for County Cab Co., didn't know Greg Cunningham well, but she knew his voice.
And the voice that came over the dispatch radio on the morning of Christmas Eve 2007 was definitely not that of the 42-year-old cabbie, she said.
"He said the cabdriver will not be going to his next fare," Foreman testified yesterday in the capital murder trial of 19-year-old Ramir Steve.
By that point, police say, Cunningham was dead, blood pouring from the bullet hole behind his left ear.
It was Steve who made the chilling radio call from Cunningham's cab - number 36 - after he shot Cunningham in Upper Darby during a botched robbery, according to Assistant District Attorney James Halligan.
"He killed Gregory Cunningham with specific intent and with malice," Halligan said.
Cunningham, of Clifton Heights, picked up Steve after 2 a.m. on Rogers Avenue in Upper Darby, where the defendant lived.
"At that location, he picked up his last passenger," Halligan said.
Steve allegedly attempted to rob Cunningham, who is divorced and has a daughter, and later confessed to several people - including his twin brother - that he shot and killed him, according to Halligan.
At his preliminary hearing in January, Steve flashed a peace sign to the TV cameras and smirked as he was led back to jail.
Defense attorney Walter Breslin dismissed Steve's "braggadocio" as the "immature" and "silly" ranting of a troubled teen. He said it wouldn't make sense for him to call a cab to his own home, then rob and murder the driver.
"There could be a lot of cynicism in this case," Breslin acknowledged to the jury of seven men and five women. But he urged them to focus on the "holes" in the prosecutors' version of events.
"Life isn't exactly black and white," he said.
Teresa DeMarco, a County Cab dispatcher, recounted the night that Cunningham's radio receiver went silent.
"I started looking for Greg," she said, "calling his number over and over."
Then came the call from car 36.
The "nonchalant" voice said, "I shot the mother-----," DeMarco testified.
"Everybody out there was trying to make money that night," DeMarco said of the other cabbies, "and they all stopped when they heard that voice."
"He was supposed to go to this address and never made it," she said, holding up the handwritten note with what would've been Cunningham's next destination on Terrace Avenue.
Police found his body facedown around 6 a.m. near the Park Lane East Apartments in Upper Darby.
During his opening statement, Breslin suggested that the shooting could have been an accident. He also implied that Steve might have been taking the heat for his brother, Romar, when he allegedly confessed to the crime.
If Steve, who is expected to testify in his own defense, is convicted of first-degree murder, the jury will decide in a separate proceeding whether he should receive the death penalty or life in prison. *