The District Attorney's office yesterday cleared the first hurdle in prosecuting the two men accused of running over a University student in a robbery last month, convincing the judge that there is sufficient evidence to bring the men to trial. Assistant District Attorney Nancy Beam Winter also advanced the case against the man believed to be responsible for five stabbings near the University. Additionally, Philadelphia Police yesterday charged the accused stabber, Wayne Christian, 30, of West Philadelphia, with five more robberies. Judge Linwood Blount scheduled pretrial conferences in both cases for December 5. About 20 students attended yesterday's two preliminary hearings, only a handful of whom came on the bus the University provided. The others, mostly friends of College junior Roberta Koeppel, who was seriously injured in last month's robbery, came on their own or with Victim Support Services Director Ruth Wells. In the first hearing, the court-appointed lawyer for Christopher Turner, 28, of Baltimore, Maryland, who is accused of robbing and then running over Koeppel, said he would seek a psychiatric evaluation of his client. Turner and his alleged accomplice, Allan Waters, 23, of the 1300 block of S. Ruby Street, are facing charges of aggravated assault, robbery and conspiracy for the October 19 robbery. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where Koeppel has been treated since the incident, would not give any information on her condition yesterday. The only witness against Waters and Turner was College junior Heidi Howard. The testimony of Howard, who said she saw the entire incident, is expected to be central to the prosecution's case. Howard is believed to be the only person other than Koeppel who was close enough to see the men in the van. The College junior told the court she and Koeppel had just left Koeppel's car on the 4000 block of Locust Street at about 10:30 p.m. when a white van pulled up and stopped next to Koeppel. She said she saw Turner, a stocky, black man with closely-cropped hair, behind the wheel looking out at Koeppel. She said Waters reached out and grabbed hold of Koeppel's bookbag. When he had a firm grasp of the bag, the van sped off, she said. Waters, a tall, thin black man who appeared in court wearing dingy gray Notre Dame sweats, has a distinctive high box-cut haircut and a small goatee. Winter led her sole witness slowly and deliberately through testimony. On several occasions, Howard appeared to fight back tears. Defense attorneys for the two men made few dents in her testimony. Turner's lawyer questioned Howard's ability to see the men clearly in the dark. Howard said a streetlight and an outside light from a nearby house provided ample light. Winter said she was pleased with the outcome of the hearing and with Howard's testimony. "I think it went fine," she said. "[Howard] told what happened very clearly and she answered all the questions well." The College junior's testimony clarified how Koeppel was dragged behind the van. She said Koeppel carried her bag on her left hip with the strap running across her body to her opposite shoulder. Winter met with several of Koeppel's friends outside the courtroom just after the hearing, explaining the process to them. Turner's attorney attempted to petition the court for an official psychiatric evaluation of his client. Judge Blount told him he could not do so at the hearing. The lawyer then said he would make the petition before the pre-trial conference. Winter said she was not sure what effect a psychiatric evaluation would have on the case but admitted the motion might have merit. She said Turner does have a history of mental problems but would not specify what those are. In the second hearing, two students, Wharton senior Michael McClintic and Wharton sophomore Gustave Lipman, testified that they were robbed and stabbed by Christian. Each identified Christian as his assailant. Christian was originally charged with three counts each of robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and several other crimes. These charges stem from three knifepoint robberies last Tuesday morning. A local man also testified that he was attacked that morning and threatened with a knife. He was not stabbed. He also identified Christian as his assailant. All three victims had previously identified Christian to police. Upon learning this, Christian's court-appointed defense attorney waived Christian's right to a lineup. Christian did not testify and did not speak at all during the hearing. Although all three victims had described him as agitated, he was calm and sedate in court. The new robbery charges against Christian were not made public at the hearing but an 18th District detective said last night Christian was charged with five more counts of robbery. Additional details on the charges were not available through University or Philadelphia Police.Comments powered by Disqus
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