Even in Philadelphia, where a murder happens almost every day, the deadly chain of events set in motion by Ivan Rodriguez and Donta Craddock stands out for its sheer devastation: four young people, from the age of 22 years to 11 months, killed by a speeding, out-of-control Pontiac that struck them on a Feltonville sidewalk June 10, 2009.
Killed that evening were Remedy Smith, 11 months; Aaliyah Griffin, 6, and Gina Marie Rosario, 7. Remedy's mother, LaToya Smith, 22, died the next day.
On Tuesday, Craddock, 21, seated in the wheelchair that he has needed since being paralyzed from the waist down in the accident, pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and related charges.
Rodriguez, 23, also pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and related charges.
A Philadelphia jury is scheduled to begin hearing opening arguments Wednesday.
Police and city prosecutors say that about 5 1/2 minutes before the crash, and 1 1/2 miles away, Rodriguez and Craddock drove up and robbed William Sandoval of his 2007 black Yamaha motorcycle at gunpoint on Rising Sun Avenue near Somerville.
Rodriguez, on the stolen bike, rode toward his home on 8th Street near Lycoming, while Craddock sped toward Roosevelt Boulevard in the Pontiac, which belonged to Rodriguez's girlfriend, police said. While trying to shake a pursuing cop, Craddock lost the cop then lost control of the car and it struck the four victims, police said.
If convicted of just one of the murder counts, the defendants — who both had extensive records of arrests — would receive mandatory life-without-parole sentences in state prison. n