More than two decades of drug use, alcoholism, and petty crime hardened David Abshire to the grittier side of Philadelphia street life.

But Abshire's memory of the morning of Dec. 3, 2010, when he lifted the sheet covering 22-year-old Allison Edwards on the floor of the Juniata Park apartment where he drank and crashed, brought tears to his eyes and a crack to his voice.

"It's a waste," Abshire told a Philadelphia judge on Tuesday. "She was a baby."

In the courtroom gallery, Edwards' mother, Karen Emery, began crying and lowered her face into her hands.

Afterward, Emery walked to Abshire and embraced him in thanks.

Abshire, 49, testified for the prosecution in the first day of a preliminary hearing for William Walton, 49, charged with murder in the strangling of Edwards' in the second-floor apartment on the 3800 block of Glendale Street.

Municipal Judge Karen Yvette Simmons agreed to complete the hearing May 1 after Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega said one of his key witnesses was not available.

Edwards lived with Emery and her stepfather in Levittown but left for Philadelphia when she began using drugs again after six months of sobriety.

Edwards wound up in the lower Northeast, and when her body was found, police thought she might be a victim of the "Kensington strangler."

DNA later proved that the accused strangler - Antonio Rodriguez, 23 - had nothing to do with Edwards' slaying.

Abshire testified that he moved to the Glendale Street apartment rented by a friend named Malcolm on Nov. 30, 2010. Abshire said that he slept on the bedroom floor and that he and Malcolm drank and watched television.

Walton and Edwards slept in the living room, Abshire said.

Abshire said he did not know the couple, but said they seemed to have a volatile relationship. He was loud, she was timid, and their fights usually involved Edwards' failure to text-message Walton.

The night of Dec. 2, Abshire said, he and Malcolm were watching the Eagles game and drinking brandy while Walton and Edwards argued in the living room.

Abshire said he passed out during the game's third quarter. He was awakened the next morning by Malcolm: "There's something wrong with the girl in there."

Abshire said he went into the living room and saw a body covered by a sheet. He said he pulled the sheet down to Edwards' neck and saw that her face was purple.

"This girl is dead," Abshire said he told Malcolm.

Walton was not there, and a syringe was on the table near the body. Police have speculated that he may have been Edwards' supplier.

Walton, whose T-shirt stretched across his muscular shoulders and chest, stared at Abshire during the hearing, occasionally frowning at the testimony.

Defense attorneys Constance Clarke and Wendy Ramos questioned Abshire at length about how much he drank, suggesting that his memory may be unreliable.

Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @joeslobo.