It has been six months since a fleeing carjack suspect plowed his car into a group of people on a Feltonville sidewalk, killing a young mother and three children.
But for Abraham Matos-Wild, the scene at Third and Annsbury Streets remains as fresh as on the night it was seared in his mind.
Matos-Wild, 47, the first police officer on the scene on June 10, broke into tears yesterday during the preliminary hearing for two North Philadelphia men charged in the crash.
Donta Cradock, 18, of Feltonville, and Ivan Rodriguez, 20, of Hunting Park, were held for trial on charges of second- and third-degree murder and homicide by motor vehicle by Municipal Court Judge David C. Shuter. But Shuter's ruling was anticlimactic after the 17-year police veteran's testimony.
Matos-Wild began with a matter-of-fact account of following the silver Pontiac Grand Am south on Third Street from Roosevelt Boulevard after a civilian pointed out the car as being involved in an armed carjacking minutes earlier.
Matos-Wild said he lost sight of the car, only to have his attention drawn to an agitated crowd near the intersection of Annsbury Street.
There, Matos-Wild said, was the wrecked Grand Am, which had climbed a front step and become wedged between a house and utility pole.
Lying on his back on the ground was the driver - identified as Cradock - with a handgun protruding from his pants pocket.
Matos-Wild said that his first concern was to disarm and handcuff the suspect and that he moved immediately to the supine driver.
He had got the gun and one wrist cuffed, Matos-Wild said, when a young woman ran up to the driver, yelling, and "started pounding on him."
Other officers arrived and pulled the woman back, Matos-Wild said, and for the first time he took in the scene.
"Describe what you saw," said Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy.
Matos-Wild froze in the witness chair. He began rubbing his hands together, made a sound as if gagged, and then loudly exhaled.
As tears welled in the officer's eyes, Conroy suggested a break, and defense attorneys Guy R. Sciolla and J. Michael Farrell offered to forgo his testimony until trial.
"I can go on," Matos-Wild said.
"People were yelling that there were people trapped under the car," he continued. "I looked up toward the vehicle, and I could see the young lady trying to lift up the car.
"After that, I saw the little mangled bodies and the limbs. And after that, I just lost it, and they took me away from the scene. That scene has never been erased from my mind."
On the other side of the bulletproof glass in the high-security courtroom, the face of Tammy Rosario - her 7-year-old daughter, Gina Marie, was one of the victims - crumbled in silent anguish.
Rosario, who is deaf, could not hear the testimony, but a woman seated text to her was translating using sign language.
What Matos-Wild saw when he looked up, according to police and medical experts, were the crushed, torn and dismembered remains of four people: Gina Marie and her friend Aaliyah Griffin, 6, and their neighbor LaToya Smith, 22, and her daughter, Rimanee Camp, just two days shy of her first birthday.
Cradock and Rodriguez sat quietly through the 21/2-hour hearing. Rodriguez occasionally spoke in a quiet but animated manner to Sciolla as if challenging some testimony.
Cradock sat in a wheelchair, his head slumped against one shoulder except when he lifted it to look at a witness.
Farrell, Cradock's attorney, said the crash left him paralyzed below the waist and on his left side, and with limited movement in his right arm.
In addition to the murder charges, Shuter ordered both men to be tried on firearms and carjacking charges involving the gunpoint theft of a motorcycle that preceded the Feltonville crash by about five minutes.
Cradock and Rodriguez allegedly robbed a man of his motorcycle in the 5400 block of Rising Sun Avenue. Cradock left the scene in the Pontiac and Rodriguez on the motorcycle.
Rodriguez was arrested 45 minutes later at his Hunting Park home, where police also found the stolen cycle.