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.” ••