In the case involving the murder of 56-year-old Kim Jones on the northwest corner of 12th and Jefferson streets, one man has been paying close attention – Fred Tookes.
Tookes, who is the son of local pastor and bishop Ernest Tookes, was at the case’s formal arraignment last Wednesday. He said he and Jones grew up in the same local community of Yorktown, and both attended Harrison Elementary School at 11th and Thompson streets.
“It’s a sad situation that someone would come from another area and take one of our own,” Tookes said. “I’m following the case on behalf of her and her family.”
At the formal arraignment, trial commissioner Susan Carmody listed all the charges against suspect Randolph Sanders to Defense Attorney Michael Coard. Prosecutor Mark Levenberg was not present.
Coard said the state was supposed to make the “discovery” – information that would be presented at a trial – available, but that has been delayed to the pre-trial conference, which is scheduled for April 1.
After that, Coard will have the opportunity to schedule a pre-trial bring back, where the “guilty” or “not guilty” plea will occur.
“At that pre-trial bringback, I will have had an opportunity to review all the discovery, [and] to consider the prosecution’s offer,” Coard said. “If we accept it, we’ll do the deal at the pre-trial bring back. If we reject it, then a scheduling conference will occur.”
Coard, who is an adjunct assistant professor in Temple’s department of geography and urban studies, added that the scheduling conference would then determine the trial judge and date. He also said his involvement in the case has “nothing to do” with his employment at Temple.
Because of client confidentiality, Coard cannot discuss any aspect of the case. However, he said he is representing Sanders to hold the state’s judicial system accountable.
“My focus, unlike most attorneys, is to keep the government honest,” Coard said. “Everybody in a criminal case in the United States of America is, and has always been, presumed innocent.”
“The greatest threat to a civilized society is an unchecked law enforcement system,” Coard added. “Somebody has to stand there and play the security guard. Any defense attorney worth his or herself is that security guard.”
Tookes said that he is shocked that one of Jones’ co-workers at Turning Points for Children – an organization devoted to assisting abused and economically disadvantaged children – is the suspect, but added that the situation has to be settled in court.
“It remains to be seen,” Tookes said. “He’s innocent until proven guilty … [the murderer] had his face covered up, so we’ll see what the evidence shows.”
The state is charging Sanders with murder, firearms carried without a license, carrying firearms in public in Philadelphia and a possession of an instrument of crime with intent.
Coard said the general murder charge will be further specified as a first-degree, second-degree or third-degree murder at the trial by the judge or jury, which is “standard operating procedure” in a non-capital case.
Sanders, who is currently being held at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Holmesburg, Pennsylvania, was arrested on Feb. 1 and confessed to the murder following his arrest. Police spokeswoman Tanya Little told The Temple News that Sanders thought Jones was going to report him for misappropriating about $40,000 in funds from the Families and Schools Together Program of Turning Points for Children.
The pre-trial conference is scheduled for April 1 at 9 a.m. with Judge Benjamin Lerner.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 215.204.7419 or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.
CORRECTION: In the version of this story that ran in the March 10 print edition, Ernest Tookes’ first name was misspelled “Earnest.”