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Texts: Alleged Rittenhouse Square killer got 'a rush' from stabbing

Steven Simminger 2d, 42, was charged with murder and possession of an instrument of crime in the March 13, 2016, stabbing death of Colin McGovern, 24, at Rittenhouse Square.

Steven Simminger 2d (left), of Blackwood, N.J., was charged with murder in the March 2016 fatal stabbing of Colin McGovern, 24, of Bucks County, in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square.
Steven Simminger 2d (left), of Blackwood, N.J., was charged with murder in the March 2016 fatal stabbing of Colin McGovern, 24, of Bucks County, in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square.Read moreFile photos

Two days before he allegedly stabbed a 24-year-old Bucks County man on a Rittenhouse Square sidewalk, Steven Simminger 2d texted to his sister: "YES! YAY! My knives have been replaced, I should have them on Saturday." The next minute, he texted: "They make me feel better."

"And stabbing is …????" his sister asked.

Simminger, of Blackwood, N.J., texted back: "is a rush," "is satisfying" and finally, "is what motherf—–s deserve if they bother me."

Someone apparently bothered Simminger about 3 a.m. Sunday, March 13, 2016, when surveillance video showed him walking on the edge of Rittenhouse Square.

It was the weekend before St. Patrick's Day, and Colin McGovern of Churchville was at the square with two women and a male friend after going to a couple of bars. In a chance encounter, Simminger, wearing a blue New Jersey Devils cap, walked past them. Soon afterward, McGovern was dead, stabbed 10 times, once in the heart.

The text messages were among the previously undisclosed details of the incident that have been aired in a Philadelphia courtroom this week, as Simminger, 42, faces trial for murder and possession of an instrument of crime in McGovern's death. A jury of eight men and four women will decide if the killing, in one of the city's wealthiest and most popular neighborhoods, was intentional, as prosecutors claim, or an act of self-defense, as Simminger contends.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Notaristefano told the jury in his opening Tuesday that Simminger "was depressed," had been drinking, and was high on drugs. "He's angry and he's a ticking time bomb," the prosecutor said.

But defense attorney Gina Capuano said that Simminger "was in fear for his life" when he stabbed McGovern. A Navy veteran, Simminger developed a traumatic brain injury and wears a prosthetic leg following an auto accident 20 years ago, she said.

The jury has seen the surveillance video from a Rittenhouse Square building that shows Simminger passing McGovern and his three friends after they got out of a cab on the outer south sidewalk of the square near 19th Street.

McGovern's friend Sean Boyd, 25, of Bucks County, testified Thursday that he "was drunk" at the time. A Philadelphia Flyers hockey fan, he testified that he made a comment to Simminger about his cap, "something along the lines of  'Screw the Devils.'"

He recalled then being in a circle with McGovern and Simminger, but didn't recall what any of them said and didn't recall anyone swinging or punching. "I remember Colin being on top of the other person," Boyd said. Then, he saw a knife in Simminger's hand and recalled trying to get McGovern away. "It's such a blur," he testified.

In the video, the three men appeared to be talking for about 20 seconds before Simminger lunged toward McGovern, who took a step backward. After Simminger fell to the ground, Simminger and McGovern appeared to tussle, with McGovern on top. But McGovern was able to get up and back away, followed by Boyd, who had come to his aid. When McGovern turned around, a dark stain was seen in the left chest area of his shirt.

Shortly afterward, McGovern collapsed, out of sight of the camera.

Simminger, who fled south on 19th Street, walked into the Philadelphia VA Medical Center in West Philly shortly before 7 a.m. for a cut on his right hand. He told hospital staff that he had been getting high on cocaine and heroin with a friend when he noticed the cut, which he claimed was not from a knife or assault. A hospital staffer alerted police that Simminger was there.

Police recovered Simminger's bloodied clothes and two double-edged switchblade knives from among his belongings. One of the knives, with a 4-inch blade, was used to stab McGovern, the prosecution said.

Later, when asked by Homicide Detective Francis Graf about the stabbing, Simminger said: "I didn't murder anybody. I was just trying to mind my business."

Capuano is expected to begin presenting her defense Friday.