'She loved extra hard,' ex-neighbor says of Penn grad charged with killing SUV driver
There were small signs in recent months that Martina Westcott had found and lost love. At least, she thought she had.
There were small signs in recent months that Martina Westcott had found and lost love.
At least, she thought she had.
If one can read the runes of Westcott's Facebook status updates, the 27-year-old University of Pennsylvania graduate and city employee was mulling over "sin" and breaking God's heart, and the decision to keep on loving no matter what the consequences.
Nothing about Westcott's social media presence suggested she was violent, and people who know her say that was true in life, too.
"She was the best person on this whole street," Ronald Brinkley, 26, who grew up across from Westcott on Valley Avenue in Roxborough, said Friday. "She was deep into love. She loved extra hard."
Perhaps too hard, police said.
Westcott, a graduate of Central High School, is in jail facing murder and weapons charges after, police say, she fatally shot Terrell Bruce, a real estate agent from East Mount Airy, while she was a passenger in his Ford Expedition on Tuesday afternoon in Germantown.
The shooting caused a crash, police said, and after the SUV overturned, Westcott fled. Police said she went to her family home in Roxborough and her mother took her to the police station. Medics determined that Bruce, who studied at Drexel and La Salle Universities, had been shot once in the right temple and pronounced him dead at 12:35 p.m., police said.
No one answered the door Friday at the brick twin where Westcott lives with her family. Westcott's car, a newer Honda Accord, was parked across the street.
Most of Westcott's Facebook pictures are smiles, her posts are political and socially conscious, and if the Roxborough native had a boyfriend or something close to it, he was a ghost on her page.
In published reports, Westcott has been described as both Bruce's girlfriend and ex-girlfriend, and police have said the two had been arguing inside the SUV.
But Brandon Bruce, Terrell's fraternal twin, said Friday that none of those descriptions was true.
"How do they know they were arguing? Did she tell them that?" asked Bruce, a lawyer who works as a regulatory counsel at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Maryland. "All that information is coming from the killer. She's trying to create a narrative. No one in my family has ever seen this woman before."
Westcott graduated from Thomas Jefferson University in 2013 with a master's degree in public health. She was working as an entry-level disease surveillance investigator at the AIDS Activities Coordinating Office in the city's Department of Public Health.
Westcott had wanted to be a pediatrician since she was a toddler, she wrote on Facebook.
"I worked long hours in nonprofits for little pay," she wrote. "I lived. I don't want to be a doctor anymore. I'm not bitter or jealous anymore. I still have 4 jobs. I don't think I'll ever have just one."
'A sweet girl'
Like her mother, Westcott also worked in child care as both a nanny and an occasional babysitter. A profile of Westcott on a child care service website says she was fluent in Spanish and was certified in CPR and first aid.
Westcott listed several references on that site, including the Borisuk family in Montgomery County.
Peter Borisuk said he was shocked to hear of her arrest.
"That does not sound like her at all. Martina has always been great and reliable," Borisuk said Friday. "She was a sweet girl, very intelligent and very capable."
Another reference declined to comment.
Borisuk said Westcott recently told him that she had a boyfriend and that they had gone away together over the summer.
In September, Westcott posted photos of an idyllic Airbnb rental at which she claimed to be staying in Lancaster County, but no one else appeared in the pictures.
Brandon Bruce said Terrell was killed on their younger brother Nathaniel Kirkland's birthday. Kirkland was a second-year student at Dickinson College when he drowned in 2009 while volunteering in Guatemala.
"Everybody who woke up on Dec. 27 knew what that day meant - and now this," Brandon Bruce said.
Terrell Bruce had established a scholarship foundation to honor Kirkland. Bruce's family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral expenses.
Brandon Bruce said that focusing on Westcott's resumé, publishing pictures of her "glamour shots," diminishes his brother's legacy and adds to his family's heartache.
"This is a heinous act, and I think everyone in Philadelphia should be outraged," he said. "She doesn't belong in prison, she belongs in the Philadelphia Zoo."
Westcott, in a musing she posted on Dec. 13, said every day was like a box.
"You decide," she wrote, "whether it will be a gift or a coffin!"