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Witnesses in double slaying, despite fears, name suspect

The execution-style slayings of Damien Holloway and Timothy Clark occurred almost 31/2 years ago, and two Tacony men are on trial in Common Pleas Court.

The execution-style slayings of Damien Holloway and Timothy Clark occurred almost 31/2 years ago, and two Tacony men are on trial in Common Pleas Court.

But if Thursday's testimony by two prosecution witnesses is a gauge, desperation and fear of retaliation still grip the neighborhood around the 6900 block of Vandike Street.

"There was a bullet in my mailbox, and a note that said I'd see the next one at my daughter's autopsy," Amy Rudnitskas, 28, told the jury in a barely audible voice.

Rudnitskas, who has two children with the older brother of defendant Gerald Drummond, testified in a Criminal Justice Center courtroom that Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes had ordered cleared of spectators and locked to prevent possible intimidation of the terrified witness.

Drummond, 26, and codefendant Robert McDowell, 28, face possible death sentences if convicted of first-degree murder in the July 13, 2007, killings of Holloway, 27, and Clark, his 15-year-old friend and worker in his landscaping business.

Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega said the evidence would show Drummond killed Holloway because of his race and because he believed Holloway had disrespected Drummond's sister, with whom Holloway had a child.

Clark, who was white, had to die because he was a witness, "a loose end that had to be tied up," Vega said. Both Drummond and McDowell are white.

Drummond's attorney, Michael E. Wallace, has said his client was home with his wife and child and other relatives at the time of the 2:20 a.m. shootings. Both Wallace and McDowell's attorney, Gary Server, have argued that the pair has been incriminated by a group of petty criminals and drug users trying to curry favor with authorities.

Rudnitskas fit both categories. She told the jury she was a heroin addict for eight years until going clean in September 2008, and that she had two arrests for retail theft.

On Thursday, she delivered the same crucial testimony against the pair that she gave at their preliminary hearing two years ago.

Rudnitskas said Drummond boasted to her and another friend about the killings several months after they occurred, telling her why he shot the victims and how he forced them to first kneel, hands laced behind their heads, before firing.

"The nigger got what he deserved," Drummond said, according to Rudnitskas.

As for Timmy Clark, she said, weeping, Drummond called him "a casualty of war."

A year after the shootings, Rudnitskas testified, McDowell told her in the presence of another friend that he was there with Drummond and was supposed to be the shooter, "but he said he couldn't do it."

In cross-examination, Wallace and Server questioned why Rudnitskas recanted her testimony in a Nov. 22 statement to a defense-hired investigator.

Rudnitskas testified that she caved in the face of intimidation by supporters of the two men and threats from David Drummond, Gerald's brother. David Drummond, she said, warned her that "I had to fix it" and threatened to take custody of their children.

Vega afterward declined to comment on whether David Drummond would be charged with witness intimidation. Vega confirmed that he was not already in custody.

Rudnitskas was the second witness Thursday to allege intimidation. Earlier, in a surprising turnabout, neighborhood resident Danielle Tisdale identified Gerald Drummond as the hooded man who ran past her window moments after three gunshots signaled the early morning murders.

"It was 'G,' running down toward Hegerman Street," Tisdale testified, using Drummond's nickname.

Twice before, Tisdale said, she had told homicide detectives she could only say that a white man ran by her window about 2:20 a.m. on July 13, 2007.

Only in the last week, said Tisdale, who is black, did she decide to name Drummond. She said she initially feared retaliation if she told the full truth.

"Bullets don't have no names on them and I don't want someone coming to my 65-year-old aunt because we're snitches," Tisdale said.

She changed her mind, she testified, after learning that a paper identifying her and relatives, a description of her testimony, and the word snitches had been found circulating in city prisons.