A Philadelphia Murder Story

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 18 | Posted Dec. 22, 2010

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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.

Bloodbath

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.”

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 18 of 18
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1. reggie4151 said... on Dec 22, 2010 at 06:01AM

“This is becoming all to commonplace in Philly. This one moron has 63 charges and is still terrorizing the streets of Philly, due to the justice system. My opinion the judges who let these idiots off should serve some time if they commit another crime while they are free. This is one of the reason's i don't go into neighborhoods i don't know.”

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2. Bob Hill said... on Dec 22, 2010 at 11:09AM

“Will someone please offer whatever is the most sought after investigative journalism post in the city to Tara Murtha ASAP?

Thanks in Advance.
Bob Hill”

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3. M.G. said... on Dec 22, 2010 at 11:52AM

“It is extrememly unfortunate that this occured and that the people involved were not brought to justice earlier. However it is important to clarify that Wynnefield as a neighborhood is not synonomous with the section called "The Bottom" and the 5800 block of Malvern is NOT considered part of "The Bottom". Majority of the Wynnefield neighborhood consists of well kept and well established blocks that are safe and mixed with everyone from local politicians to St. Joe's students.”

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4. Tara Murtha said... on Dec 22, 2010 at 01:44PM

“M.G. Thank you for your comment. I realized this mistake while editing so it should not have been there. The reference has been deleted online and does not appear in the print version. Thanks. -- TM”

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5. roses madrigale said... on Dec 23, 2010 at 07:40AM

“This is the writing that earns the most prestiges awards-
this is investigative journalism at its' finest-
kudos to Tara and this writing-I am so sure the victims families and the people who call this neighborhood home are grateful.
Like the previous writer I am sure this young women will be sought after by other print or to teach journalism!
Thank you to the almighty for the free press.
Tara keep fighting the good fight!

respectfully,
roses madrigale”

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6. jj said... on Dec 23, 2010 at 10:40PM

“they keep having babies they cant take care of.murtha just another media moron&a minor leaguer at that”

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7. V said... on Dec 24, 2010 at 11:37AM

“This is the most realistic type of journalism, that tells the whole story in full detail, arousing emotions and reactions from readers instead of drawing every murder as another commonplace incident. No matter how often murder occurs every year, every day, in a city, it should never be described so blandly as it typically is- as a routine event with no emotions attached. Thank you Tara Murtha”

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8. Anonymous said... on Dec 25, 2010 at 12:19AM

“I enjoyed the article and I agree that it tells the story of what is sadly an all too common occurrence in the city in a striking fashion. The interesting and emotive writing style pounds the reader with mind-numbing detail that serves to confirm that the dwellers in those neighborhoods share very little with the rest of us in the civilized world. I experienced not one nanosecond of identification with any of the players in this story. The horrific importance placed on "respect" in such a self-hating / self-destructive / corpse shooting culture perplexes me with its profound irony.

This piece confirms to me that this city is a lost cause; the murder of an 11 year old can't just be relegated to the "unfortunate" column when so many actions by adults of directed wantonness occur. Far from an unforeseen tragedy, such collateral deaths should be presented as an expected outcome . . . This culture of indiscriminately applied street retribution has all sorts of unintended consequences; a girlfriend letting her boyfriend use her car for his bounty-hunting mission must not be thought of as a zero-sum event.

The car is recognized, the area it frequents is staked-out and the murderer and corpse shooting boyfriend are leisurely hanging out in the girlfriend's house with her kids around. Nothing that happens after such stupidity and carelessness can be reasonably considered an unforeseen tragedy.

The focus on the weaponry involved was thankfully a path abandoned in this piece. Another whiny missive about how we need a few more laws to control the behavior of people who, as a matter of personal conviction ignore if not actively violate laws, would be pitiful given the facts of this case (and most cases it is seen). Thanks for not going there (even though the headline writers teased it as such).

All in all, accept the accolades but realize this narrative is nothing but a testament of how far the inner city has has diverged from normal human social existence (at least in the civilized western world). It has only made me care less about their lot in life and cemented my resolve that they should have as little influence in the real world as possible (you can read that simplistically as political clout).”

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9. Anonymous said... on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:42AM

“I read this article in it's entirety and it's crazy how I read these comments made by people who are hearing testimonies from people who sound like to me are plain old liars and just trying to get themselves out of trouble. I say this because it's crazy that the jury would even convict this young man due to jacked up testimonies that spell out some reasonable doubt. You hear a cops testimony and believe it because they are cops but do you not remember what these same cops in Philadelphia did to those four innocent men in the lex street massacre they made one of those men lie on himself and say he murdered those people just so that they hurry up and end their case to make it seem like they did their job to satisfy the grieving families involved. Wow and it turned that those men were TRULY innocent because someone came forward to take responsibility for those murders. What did the police do when he came forward they called him crazy because he was already serving life. Think about it!!!”

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10. Anonymous said... on Dec 29, 2010 at 01:01AM

“Think about it they call him crazy and his story is unbelievable because they wanted to cover their asses. I'm so tired of seeing innocent black men go to jail all because they fit the ''SOCALLED'' of a murderer. What does a murderer look like anyway. A black man that lives in the hood or a white man
like Dahmer or Bundy who got away with killing over 20 people because they didn't fit the description. Not once did I hear Tara mention fingerprints, other witnesses besides the 'rats caught in a trap', and they find this young man guilty of 2 murders. Not even the guy Tolbert could identify who shot those people and he was there! This is becoming all too common in Philadelphia innocent men who are labled as THUGS getting life sentences off of hearsay. What happened to hard core evidence. That's what makes a case stick without a reasonable doubt! This boy went to jail for life because of word of mouth. You people praise Tara for her word play in this article. Please get real”

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11. mamabear1210 said... on Dec 29, 2010 at 01:05AM

“excellent in-depth article. you leave no stone unturned to report all the facts from start to finish. Bravo”

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12. Anonymous said... on Dec 29, 2010 at 01:18AM

“I no the mother of the boy who was killed and i'm just glad it's all aver for her after all these yrs of no closer for her and my family just want to say thank god those men was tried & jugde by man now they will be by god.they will never rest their souls will always be hawnted by wht they done........RIP LIL NAZ NEVER GOT THE CHANCE TO REALLY NO U BUT I NO MY BROTHER LUV U YOU WAS HIS FAMILY AND THT MADE U MINES YOU ARE LOVED AND MISSED!!!!!!!!!”

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13. Martin said... on Jan 2, 2011 at 06:27AM

“"labeled THUGS"... Keep it real. BTW, your family will enjoy eating bologna sandwiches or, if still on the outside, asking me if I want fries with that. Wait, here's a way to make money, sell poisen to each other!”

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14. Anonymous said... on Jan 7, 2011 at 04:24PM

“I'm going to have to agree with the first anonymous reader, how the fuck can you convict a man off of hear say? My heart goes out to Nasir's mother and their family, but that just doesn't make any sense. In that case if someone comes forward and testified that Campfield said he wasn't there prior to the murders, would they have took that into consideration?? Answer to that is FUCK NO!!!!!! The whole system is fucked up. As for Johnson the guy with 63 different charges, in which most of them was dismissed stop and think maybe because they deserved to be.. NOT because the DA wanted too.”

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15. TruthBeTold said... on Jan 12, 2011 at 02:48PM

“To Tara Murtha, I am one of the people you've slandered in this article. I see people are praising you for excellent investigative journalism, when in fact you did nothing more than propagate lies.!! Did you do your own investigation or was your story fed to you by the same officers who falsified reports and the events surrounding the case? Did you get it from the detectives who prescripted testimonies for various suspects in the case to pass them as witnesses who will get benefits for cooperation? Did you get it from the D.A. Who have already concealed major facts, statements, and proof of corruption from the courts, from the victims' family, and the public???? You owe more than an apology yet your accepting praise- See you in court!!!!!”

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16. RAw Relly said... on Apr 14, 2012 at 02:54PM

“Fuck Yall Rats!!! We Be Back Again With A Better Virdict!!! 29th n Thompson bitches Free Chill Black asap”

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17. JUSTICE for Naz said... on Feb 22, 2013 at 04:37PM

“To Tara Murtha: Thank you for posting this article about Nasir's and Alonzo's justice. Nasir was my little cousin... We lives in our memories and Hollie, his sister and younger brother can have closure. People on here can get mad and say your tainting the story and making false claims but there's three sides to every story ( YOUR SIDE , THEIR SIDE , and THE TRUTH ) God knows who's wrong and ultimately they will be judged by him. I could care less about how other people feel about who did what and killed who, Im thankful my fam has justice and its sad Naz had to die because grown men and their egos.”

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18. Anonymous said... on Feb 26, 2013 at 03:46PM

“What can we seriously do to stop this severe brutality?”

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