NORRISTOWN — A Philadelphia man won’t face the death penalty if he’s convicted of a homicide charge in connection with his alleged role in the Christmas Day 2012 gunshot slaying of a Norristown man.
Based on the legal standards and the factors they can consider under the law, Montgomery County prosecutors explained they will not seek a death sentence if Rasheed Abdul Farrelle, 34, of the 4700 block of Penn Street, is convicted of first-degree murder, which is an intentional killing, in connection with the alleged Dec. 25, 2012, fatal shooting of Paul Brown in Norristown.
“We evaluated the aggravating factors versus the mitigating factors as to whether to pursue the death penalty and we decided that was not appropriate in this case,” county Deputy District Attorney Kelly S. Lloyd said after Farrelle was formally arraigned on homicide-related charges before Judge Thomas C. Branca.
In order to obtain a death penalty, prosecutors must show that aggravating factors – circumstances that make a killing more heinous – outweigh any mitigating factors – circumstances that favor a defendant. Specifically, prosecutors have about 18 aggravating factors, under state law, which they can use to seek the death penalty.
It is during a formal arraignment hearing that prosecutors must inform a judge if they plan to seek the death penalty.
During the hearing, Branca scheduled Farrelle’s trial to commence May 2, 2022, with jury selection. The trial is expected to last about five days.
Farrelle, who is represented by defense lawyer John I. McMahon Jr., waived a formal reading of the charges lodged against him and entered not guilty pleas to the charges during the arraignment hearing.
With the death penalty off the table, Farrelle will face life imprisonment if he’s convicted of the first-degree murder charge during the trial.
Farrelle also faces charges of third-degree murder, conspiracy, possession of a prohibited firearm and firearms not to be carried without a license in connection with the alleged fatal shooting.
A conviction of third-degree murder, a killing committed with malice, carries a possible maximum sentence of 20-to-40-years in prison.
Farrelle will remain in the county jail without bail while awaiting trial on the homicide charges.
Farrelle was apprehended in Norristown in April after a pursuit during which he also was accused of trying to strike a detective with a vehicle.
The homicide investigation began about 4:40 p.m. Dec. 25, 2012, when Norristown police responded to a report of a shooting in the rear of a residence in the 100 block of Wayne Avenue, according to a criminal complaint filed by county Detective Michael Crescitelli and Norristown Detective James Angelucci.
Arriving officers discovered Brown, 24, in the driver’s seat of a 1997 Buick Riviera and suffering multiple gunshot wounds, according to the arrest affidavit. Brown was pronounced dead at 5:50 p.m. at an area hospital.
A subsequent autopsy determined Brown died of multiple gunshot wounds and numerous fired projectiles were recovered from Brown’s body, court documents indicate.
Investigators recovered 18 fired 9mm shell casings near the Buick sedan and detectives determined the gunman fired at the victim “from a position outside of the passenger side door of the Buick sedan,” detectives alleged. Detectives also recovered video surveillance recordings in the area, according to court papers.
Court documents indicate detectives questioned Farrelle as early as Jan. 23, 2013, during the investigation. However no arrests were made at that time.
The investigation continued and authorities uncovered that on the date of the alleged fatal shooting, 13 text messages and nine phone calls were exchanged between Brown and Farrelle. The last outgoing call from Brown’s phone to Farrelle’s phone was at 4:35 p.m., minutes before the shooting, authorities alleged.
During the investigation, witnesses placed Farrelle in the area at the time of Brown’s killing and indicated that he was wearing a distinctive coat similar to one worn by a man seen in surveillance video obtained from the area of the fatal shooting, according to court documents.
In the criminal complaint, detectives said they have long believed that the murder of Brown was in retaliation for the Oct. 20, 2012, murder of Ryan “LR” Ladson. Detectives alleged in court papers that Brown was a suspect in Ladson’s murder at the time of his death and that Farrelle was a close associate of Ladson.
In March, detectives interviewed a witness who claimed that in the summer of 2013 and again in 2015, they heard Farrelle make admissions to killing Brown, according to the arrest affidavit.
A warrant was issued for Farrelle’s arrest on March 18 and on April 15 detectives conducted a stakeout near a Norristown residence where they believed Farrelle was staying, according to a previous news release issued by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.
Farrelle exited the apartment and eventually entered a vehicle. As detectives moved in and ordered Farrelle out of the car, Farrelle allegedly put the car in reverse, collided with a parked car, and then accelerated directly at a county detective, who had to take evasive action to avoid being struck, according to the district attorney’s news release.
Farrelle allegedly attempted to turn right onto New Hope Street but because of excessive speed, drove onto a sidewalk and into a yard in the 900 block of New Hope Street. Farrelle’s car collided with a pickup truck that was parked in a driveway and then struck a telephone pole and came to rest in a yard where Farrelle was taken into custody without further incident, authorities said.