Judge upholds charges for 2 men accused of murdering couple a decade ago

Kristen Johanson
June 05, 2019 - 6:47 pm

Paul Hein/Getty Images

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Despite repeated attempts from defense attorneys to toss the case, a Philadelphia judge has upheld murder charges against two men accused of bounding and shooting a couple nearly a decade ago in West Philly — the case, prosecutors say, is tied together by a piece of duct tape.

Authorities say James Barrow willing went into a Delaware police station to confess that he and another man, Tyrek Smith, killed Jonathan Pitts and Nakeisha Finks inside a home at 55th and Delancey streets in August 2009.

During a preliminary hearing, a homicide detective — assigned to the case three years ago — said Barrow confessed. The detective said Barrow was sitting at a bar and heard that Pitts had just received a large amount of money, so Barrow followed Pitts to find out where he lived. 

According to the detective, Barrow said he later broke into the home through a back window and struggled with the victims. He eventually taped their legs, arms and faces with duct tape, and he shot them in the head, taking only coins from the home.

Smith was also interviewed by detectives at another point, and after asking for a lawyer several times, he eventually told the cop he and Barrow committed the crime.

The defense attorneys repeatedly pulled at that thread, saying since Smith asked for a lawyer multiple times, the statement should be thrown out, and the full video of the interview should be shown in court.

But the judge disagreed, telling the defense it was not appropriate for a preliminary hearing, which are intended to show the court that there’s enough evidence to move forward to court proceedings.

Prosecutors ordered a fingerprint found on a piece of the duct tape at the crime scene to be analyzed. They say it matches Smith’s print.

Related: Decade after Philly couple murdered, 2 men charged in their killings

The case has previously been tried by prosecutors before, against Nafis Pinkney, who was later acquitted in the case. He has since sued the city, and settled for $750,000.

Barrow and Smith are set to be formally arraigned on June 26.