Jeanette Wakefield, a former Center City real estate agent, was not your typical defendant in Room 306, the homicide preliminary hearing room at the Criminal Justice Center. Dressed in a long-sleeve gray top, gray pants, and white sneakers, Wakefield appeared calm and poised when she entered the courtroom and sat down at the defense table.
By the end of Tuesday's hearing, Municipal Court Judge Thomas Gehret had held her for trial on charges of murder and possession of an instrument of crime in the September shooting death of her boyfriend in her Fishtown apartment building.
Prosecutors contend Wakefield, 37, intentionally shot 33-year-old Terry Corrigan IV, of Kensington, in the hallway outside the apartment where she lived with her two children, ages 9 and 10. Defense attorneys contend it was self-defense: that Corrigan was trying to attack her when Wakefield, who had a legal permit to carry her 9mm semiautomatic pistol, fired the fatal shot.
It was about 3:25 a.m. Sept. 27 when officers responded to the Chandler apartment building, the site of a large former school building at 1050 E. Montgomery Ave., where Wakefield lived in Apartment 201 and served as apartment manager.
They found Corrigan lying in the second-floor hallway. Medics pronounced him dead at the scene.
Assistant District Attorney Alisa Shver said he was felled by a bullet that entered near his right eye and lodged in his lung. There was no evidence of gun residue on his face, indicating he was shot from at least 2 feet away, she said.
Shver called one witness to the stand, Homicide Detective Frank Mullen, and played short clips of Wakefield's videotaped interview with detectives. About two hours after the shooting, around 5:20 a.m., she told Detectives Mullen and Levi Morton: "It just happened so quick." She contended that Corrigan was "a good friend" who was addicted to heroin, whom she was trying to help.
Wakefield said that Corrigan kept banging on her apartment door that night trying to get in, and that she told him to leave. Then, she said, she went to a nearby gas station to get cigarettes and told her kids to lock the door. She said that when she returned, Corrigan was in the hallway and had damaged a terrazzo table she had gotten from her grandfather, which was in the hallway.
After she entered her apartment, she said, he pushed the door open and tried to grab her neck, and that's when she fired the gun.
"As soon as I shot the gun, I didn't really mean to … It's so sensitive," she told detectives. She said she had her gun in her holster when she went out to get cigarettes because it was late at night.
Mullen testified that he saw blood along the wall across from Wakefield's apartment, about 15 to 20 feet away from her door, suggesting that Corrigan was not at her door when he was shot. There was also blood on the floor, where he collapsed.
Police initially could not find the fired cartridge casing, but about 10 days later they recovered a fired 9mm casing from the bottom of a large vent, which had an opening on the hallway floor, about 4 feet from Wakefield's apartment door.
Defense attorneys Trevan Borum and Timothy Tarpey asked Mullen about other comments Wakefield made. At one point in the video, she said to homicide detectives: "How many times are you going to ask me questions? I am super f—ing tired." At another point she said she fired "to protect myself. It was like instinct. I don't even remember pulling the trigger."
"It was a private apartment building," Borum argued. "He had no right to attack her at 3:25 in the morning."
But Shver argued that "the facts don't bear out her version of the events." She contended Wakefield shot to kill and fired the gun while in the hallway.
Wakefield, who remains in custody at the Riverside Correctional Facility on State Road, was an independent contractor who had been affiliated with Coldwell Banker's Center City office.