Frankford man convicted of Easter attack

An East Frank­ford man is fa­cing up to 40 years in pris­on after a judge last week con­victed him in the bru­tal East­er Sunday 2012 mug­ging of a 93-year-old wo­man in Bell’s Corner.

The vic­tim, Es­telle DiC­a­millo, had taken SEPTA to church on April 8, 2012, and was walk­ing home from her loc­al bus stop at about 2 p.m. when Ant­o­nio San­ti­ago at­tacked her along 8300 block of Lor­etto Ave., out­side the Bell’s Corner Shop­ping Cen­ter. San­ti­ago, now 30, of the 2200 block of Kennedy St., grabbed the wo­man’s purse, but she re­fused to re­lin­quish it, said As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Mark Gilson, the lead pro­sec­utor in the case. As a res­ult, San­ti­ago pulled the vic­tim to the ground, caus­ing her to break her left arm in three places. She also suffered cuts and bruises to her face and head. San­ti­ago fled with the purse, which con­tained tis­sues, den­tures and breath mints, but no cash, Gilson said. The wo­man kept her money in her pock­et.

The vic­tim had been liv­ing in­de­pend­ently in her home, but after the at­tack, she had to move in­to her daugh­ter’s home, where she was bedrid­den.

“Her con­di­tion de­teri­or­ated. She fell and broke her hip, had sur­gery and now is in a nurs­ing home,” Gilson said. “[San­ti­ago] changed her life forever. She was self-suf­fi­cient. She wasn’t tak­ing any med­ic­a­tions. She had no health prob­lems. After this happened, she be­came an in­val­id.”

Sur­veil­lance cam­er­as in the shop­ping cen­ter filmed the mug­ging. Po­lice re­leased an ed­ited ver­sion of the re­cord­ing pub­licly, then iden­ti­fied Har­ris with the help of tip­sters. The sus­pect was liv­ing with his moth­er at the time. Po­lice searched the house, found cloth­ing that San­ti­ago wore dur­ing the crime and ar­res­ted him on April 14, 2012.

DiC­a­millo was able to testi­fy at a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing, but couldn’t make it to the tri­al. So Gilson played a re­cord­ing of her earli­er testi­mony as evid­ence dur­ing the tri­al. San­ti­ago waived his right to a tri­al by jury and left his fate in the hands of Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Robert Cole­man. San­ti­ago’s moth­er test­i­fied for the de­fense, claim­ing that San­ti­ago had at­ten­ded church with his fam­ily that day and that he had spent the rest of the day at home. The judge didn’t buy that alibi.

Cole­man con­victed San­ti­ago of rob­bery and ag­grav­ated as­sault, both felon­ies of the first de­gree. At the time of the crime, San­ti­ago was on pa­role for a pri­or first-de­gree felony rob­bery con­vic­tion and will be con­sidered a “second strike” of­fend­er at sen­ten­cing. As a res­ult, Cole­man must sen­tence him to at least 10 to 20 years in pris­on for each new con­vic­tion. Gilson plans to ask the judge to im­pose the sen­tences con­sec­ut­ively, res­ult­ing in a 20 to 40-year sen­tence. The sen­ten­cing hear­ing is sched­uled for June 4.

“This was a very hard-hearted, cruel and wicked crime,” the pro­sec­utor said. “He circled the [shop­ping cen­ter] drive­way for an hour. He was clearly wait­ing for the ‘right’ vic­tim and he chose a wo­man who was 93 years old and un­able to de­fend her­self.” •• 

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