On October 22, 1991 at about 1:50 pm in the afternoon, high school students Chedell Williams and Zahra Howard were climbing the steps the enter the Fern Rock Subway Station in north Philadelphia. They were approached by two men who blocked their way up the stairs. One man demanded earrings at which point the girls ran away from them back down the stairs. One man chased Chedell into the street where he ripped the earrings from her ears and shot her in the neck, killing her. The two men then ran up the street and jumped in a car driven by a third man, and sped off.
There were dozens of eyewitnesses to the crime which happened on a “bright” afternoon, and many of them had a view of the perpetrators in the few seconds that it took for the crime to take place. In addition, a couple of eyewitnesses were able to partially describe the make, model, and color of the car and also provide a few digits in the license plate number. Unfortunately the car was never identified or found.
As the investigation continued, the police heard rumors in the projects that Jimmy Dennis was the one who killed Chedell Williams. Jimmy Dennis maintained his innocence from day one, and when he became aware of rumors he went to the police station to straighten out the matter. The Police told him he wasn't a suspect. However, they continued to gather evidence and later arrested and charged him with murder. Jimmy, unwilling to make any deals, was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced with the death penalty. There have been no charges filed for the crimes committed by the two other men involved the crime.
Why is Jimmy innocent?
- The only evidence tying Jimmy to the crime is the eyewitness stranger identification of three eyewitnesses, two of whom were unsure and another who only saw the perpetrator for a "second". More importantly, these eyewitnesses and others all gave physical descriptions of the perpetrator that are much taller and heavier than Jimmy. It's much more likely they identified the wrong person than it is their descriptions were off by as much as they were. Other witnesses said Jimmy was NOT the perpetrator or chose someone other than Jimmy in the line-ups.
- Several family members, friends, and acquantainces support Jimmy's alibi that he was riding a bus to a different part of town at the time of the crime.
- There is no physical evidence tying Jimmy to the murder.
- The stolen earrings were never found, and Jimmy was not involved in the robbery of the same earrings a few months prior.
- The gun was never found, and no gun has ever found been found in Jimmy's possession.
- The getaway car was never found or linked to Jimmy in any way. Jimmy has never owned a car and does not have a license.
- Jimmy had no motive as he and his singing group were about to sign a record contract.