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Witness says correct man is charged with killing her parents, aunt: 'I am sure of that'

A woman who saw her parents and aunt gunned down in the family's West Philadelphia bodega in 2011 insisted Thursday that the correct man was charged with pulling the trigger and killing her father.

Nalik Scott (left) and Ibrahim Muhammed (right).
Nalik Scott (left) and Ibrahim Muhammed (right).Read more

A woman who saw her parents and aunt gunned down in the family's West Philadelphia bodega in 2011 insisted Thursday that the correct man was charged with pulling the trigger and killing her father.

"And he knows it, because he looked at me, and he almost killed me and my sister, and I am sure of that," sobbed Jessica Nunez, who was 19 when the slayings took place in the Lorena Grocery.

The emotional exchange came in the midst of a second day of cross-examination Thursday, as defense attorney Jack McMahon repeatedly questioned Nunez about her initial description of the gunmen who killed her family - a description that doesn't fit the men charged with the murders, he has said.

The defense team for Ibrahim Muhammed and Nalik Scott have been building a mistaken-identity defense in hours of cross-examination this week.

McMahon and fellow defense attorney Larry Krasner say the prosecution's case hinges on a false confession taken from Muhammed while he was off his medication for schizophrenia.

Porfirio Nunez; his wife, Juana; and his sister Lina Sanchez were killed Sept. 6, 2011, when two armed men entered their bodega at 50th and Parrish Streets. One of the men, Jessica Nunez testified Wednesday, held her and her sister at gunpoint near the cash register and shot her father when he answered the girls' cries for help. The other gunman made his way to the back of the store and shot her mother and aunt, she said.

In court, she identified the gunmen as Scott, shooting her father, and Muhammed. Both are 35.

McMahon repeatedly emphasized that Nunez described the man who killed her mother and aunt as clean-shaven. McMahon and Krasner have said that Muhammed has had a beard since he was a teenager.

"You said it numerous times that the person who did this to your family had no beard," McMahon said.

Sobbing on the stand, Jessica Nunez was adamant that Muhammed was the right man.

"I am sorry if I made a mistake in the moment," she said - and echoed those words a few hours later under cross-examination from Krasner.

But she looked at Muhammed's face during the robberies, she said repeatedly, and would never forget it, facial hair or not.

On Wednesday, McMahon said Nunez had described the man who shot her father as 5 feet 4 inches tall. Scott, he said, is 5 feet 10. He also challenged witnesses on the street - none of whom saw the shooting - on their descriptions of the two men they had seen in the area around the time of the murders.

McMahon also played a video of Nunez - who took jobs in several bodegas after the murders, hoping to spot her family's killers - encountering a customer in a bodega who, she said, looked so much like one of the gunmen that she fainted. In the video, Nunez rings up the man at the cash register, then sinks to the floor, crying. Later, her coworkers carry her limp form out of the bathroom.

Nunez said she told police she thought the man could have been a relative of the gunman. Krasner suggested this week that the man could be one of the killers - and that police dropped the lead after obtaining Muhammed's confession.

Laura Nunez, Jessica's younger sister, also testified Thursday, and will be cross-examined until Friday.

She identified Scott from the stand as the man who had forced her to the ground at the beginning of the robbery. "That's him. That's him," she said.

She described closing her eyes in terror as shots rang out from the back of the store, and running in a panic to find her parents and aunt after the gunmen left the store.

"I knew my dad was leaving me. I could feel it," she said. "My dad was my hero, and you took him away from me."

215-854-2961 @aubreyjwhelan