With release of MOVE 9 member, effort renewed to free remaining six

Cherri Gregg
June 19, 2018 - 6:41 pm
Debbie Sims Africa, the first member of the MOVE 9, is now free. She made her first public appearance Tuesday.

Cherri Gregg | KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The first member of the MOVE 9, a group of people who were convicted for the 1978 death of the Philadelphia police officer, is now free. 

Debbie Sims Africa made her first public appearance Tuesday.

The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole denied her parole eight times before granting it last week. 

"When I first heard, I don't think I really digested it," she said.

Six of the members are still behind bars. Two died in prison. Sisters Janet Hollaway Africa and Janine Phillips Africa, who are still behind bars, had their petitions denied last month.

"The prison records are virtually identical," said attorney Brad Thompson, who recently began representing the MOVE 9 and is working toward the renewed effort of getting parole for the remaining six. "The character that they show demonstrates that there is no reason to justify their incarceration."

Now that Debbie Sims Africa is free, she said she is focused on reconnecting with the son she gave birth to behind bars and obtaining release for sisters.

The group was originally sentence to 30 to 100 years in prison for the death of Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp, who was shot and killed amid gunfire. 

RELATED: After 40 years in prison, first member of MOVE 9 is free

He filed a 150-page petition with positive recommendation letters, prison records and a letter from District Attorney Larry Krasner recommending freedom for the three women. 

Thompson will do the same for the men, including Debbie Sims Africa's husband, Michael Davis Africa, Sr.

"We are happy the parole board made the right decision for Debbie and we are hoping they do the same for the remaining six," Thompson said.

The Philadelphia Police Department declined to comment. 

John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, wrote that 30 to 100 years was not enough for a violent radical group that terrorized the community and resulted in the death of an officer.