According to Tolbert—the target who escaped—it’s a couple of days before the slayings on Malvern Street and Alonzo Robinson’s at a dice game somewhere near the corner of Parrish and North Holly streets. Someone robs the game players. Robinson doesn’t see the thief, but soon enough he catches word on the street that Lamar Thomas, known to friends as Marty Cool, is responsible.
The morning of June 16, Robinson asks his buddy Tolbert to take him around Fairmount Avenue to find Marty Cool so he can confront him about the robbery. Tolbert borrows a car belonging to his girlfriend, Hollie Butts, mother of 11-year-old Nasir, and the duo go searching for Cool. Tolbert’s packing a .357 revolver; Robinson has a .9 mm handgun. Tolbert would later testify that when the two found Marty Cool, they pulled over and Robinson yanked him into the backseat and argued with him. “Marty said that he didn’t stick Alonzo up, and Alonzo says, ‘Yes you did, someone told me.’”
“[Robinson] pushed Marty Cool out of the car and he shot him, then I shot him,” says Tolbert. It was about noon.
When asked why he bothered to shoot an already dead Thomas, Tolbert says: “So I’d fit in … I didn’t want him [Robinson] to look at me no different way.”
News of Marty Cool’s slaying quickly zipped through the neighborhood. According to Alverest, phone calls were made to find out who shot their friend. The intel pointed to Robinson and Tolbert.
Alverest says he and Campfield then headed over to Johnson’s house with revenge on the brain. They smoked some weed and talked about how “it was fucked up that [Marty Cool] got killed,” and “basically that someone’s got to pay for it.”
Alverest says someone recognized the car Tolbert and Robinson were driving when they shot Cool, and knew where it was usually parked on Malvern Street. “We waited, drove up there,” Alverest testifies. “There wasn’t too much talking in the car, it was just clear what we were doing.”
Meanwhile, Robinson and Tolbert split up after Cool’s shooting. Tolbert kicks around 42nd and Westminster streets for a while. Later in the afternoon, they end up at Butts’ Malvern Street house.
Butts was longtime friends with Robinson and had been dating Tolbert for about a year and a half at the time of the shooting. She lived in the house with Tolbert, her cousin and her three children. Nasir was the older brother to two girls, 7 and 9 years old.
It’s unclear if either man mentioned to Butts that they’d committed murder earlier that day when they showed up at the house to hang out.
Robinson flops on the couch and watches TV. Butts’ daughters play in the backyard area where their grandmother, who lives a few doors down, can also keep an eye on them. Nasir is in and out of the house, waiting for his mom to finish making dinner.
Butts, employed cleaning houses at the time, dumps a bag of shrimp in a pot of water and turns the flame to high. Then she hears a “bump.” Sensing something amiss, she asks Nasir if he made any weird noises. He says no. Not satisfied, she presses her ear to the door off the kitchen. Behind the door is a staircase that leads to the basement. She doesn’t hear the sound again.
She later testified: “I thought I was hallucinating because no one else heard it.” She says Tolbert told her to chill out, that she was just tripping.
If Butts had looked outside, she would have seen a Chevy Lumina pulling up to the back of her house, the driver pointing toward the basement door.
According to Alverest, the gunmen stood still inside the basement, listening. Campfield and Johnson wore baseball caps, their faces concealed by stars and stripes bandanas. Alverest yanked his hoodie tight. Campfield was armed with the AK-47 gun, Johnson with the AR-15 and Alverest, a Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum revolver.
Butts walks out front and down to her mother’s house to check on her daughters as the men climbed the staircase and got ready to kick in the door.
Within two minutes, Butts hears “the ricochet of the bullets.” She says it sounds like “a trillion shots.”
When cops respond to the call a few minutes later, dinner’s still boiling on the stove.
Police Officer Theresa Shipanga, the first witness at the scene of the crime, tells the court what she saw that day. “[Hollie Butts] was out front, she was pointing, saying they were shooting in the house and can I check on her son.”
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide