NORRISTOWN — A Perkiomen man will not face the death penalty if he’s convicted of charges he intentionally killed his girlfriend during an argument and then used his cellphone to record her injured and lifeless body during the attack.
Nicholas Alexander Forman, during an arraignment hearing in Montgomery County Court on Tuesday, pleaded not guilty to charges of first- and third-degree murder in connection with the alleged Feb. 3 beating death of 22-year-old Sabrina Harooni, of Gilbertsville.
It is during an arraignment hearing that prosecutors must notify the judge if they intend to seek the death penalty in the event of a conviction of first-degree murder, which is an intentional killing.
“The district attorney evaluated the case and evaluated the aggravating factors and the mitigating factors and determined we will not seek the death penalty,” county Assistant District Attorney Tonya Lupinacci, assistant chief of trials, said after the hearing. “But we are seeking a first-degree murder conviction and for the defendant to spend the rest of his life in jail.”
Under state law, first-degree murder is punishable by either life imprisonment or death by lethal injection.
In order to obtain the 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.
A #Perkiomen man will not face the death penalty if he’s convicted of charges he intentionally killed his girlfriend during an argument and then used his cellphone to record her injured and lifeless body during the attack.Update coming from #MontcoPa #Court— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) July 21, 2020
Forman, 23, of the 900 block of Hamilton Road, appearing via a video-conferencing system from the county jail in order to comply with social distancing rules instituted during the coronavirus pandemic, waived a formal reading of the specific charges lodged against him during the hearing.
Lupinacci, defense lawyer Michael A. John and the victim’s family also were linked to the courtroom by video technology from their offices or homes for the brief hearing.
Judge Thomas C. Branca, who presided at the arraignment hearing, set an April 5, 2021, trial date, with the caveat that the date could change as officials monitor the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
President Judge Thomas M. DelRicci will preside over the trial.
An investigation of Forman began about 11:28 a.m. Feb. 3 when officials at Pottstown Hospital Tower Health notified Pottstown police that Harooni arrived at the emergency department in an Uber with Forman and she was suffering from injuries to her neck, face and head.
“The victim was cold to the touch, with blue lips and not breathing,” county Detective John Wittenberger and state police Trooper Richard W. Sanzick Jr. wrote in the arrest affidavit, adding Harooni subsequently was pronounced dead.
Doctors told detectives Harooni’s body temperature was no more than 79 degrees and her pupils were “blown out,” which is indicative of head trauma or lack of oxygen, according to arrest documents. Doctors stated Harooni’s injuries “were consistent with a severe physical assault.”
An autopsy determined Harooni’s cause of death to be “asphyxia, strangulation and multiple blunt force injuries.”
“The district attorney evaluated the case and evaluated the aggravating factors and the mitigating factors and determined we will not seek the death penalty,” #MontcoPa Prosecutor Tonya Lupinacci said after Nicholas Forman was arraigned on murder charges... pic.twitter.com/KwdnBpIyB1— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) July 21, 2020
Forman told Pottstown detectives and state police at Skippack that he and Harooni went to PJ Whelihan’s Pub in Oaks on Feb. 2 to watch the Super Bowl and that Harooni had a verbal altercation with three females who later beat her during an altercation that carried over outside his Perkiomen residence. Forman claimed he carried an injured Harooni into his home, that she was still breathing and that he continually checked on her until he fell asleep.
Forman claimed he woke up about 8:45 a.m. Feb. 3 and took an Uber to go to a hearing in Limerick district court where he had to answer to drug-related charges stemming from a previous alleged Upper Providence incident. Forman claimed when he returned home at 10 a.m. he checked on Harooni, realized Harooni was unresponsive so he summoned an Uber driver to take them to the hospital, according to court papers. Forman claimed Harooni was still breathing when he took her to the hospital.
Nicholas Alexander Forman, during an arraignment hearing in #MontcoPa #Court on Tuesday, pleaded not guilty to charges of first- and third-degree murder in connection with the alleged Feb. 3 beating death of 23 yo Sabrina Harooni, of #Gilbertsville. pic.twitter.com/v0QNardeGC— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) July 21, 2020
Detectives, according to a criminal complaint, uncovered a 13-second audio and video recording on Forman’s cellphone that depicted Harooni, traces of blood on her face, lying unresponsive on a grassy area believed to be outside Forman’s Perkiomen residence.
In the recording, a male voice is heard stating, “This is what a cheating liar gets. You hear me? Cheating (expletive) liar,” as well as several other obscenities, according to the criminal complaint.
The cellphone also contained two photographs of an injured Harooni outside and inside the Perkiomen residence, according to court papers.
Court documents indicate Forman and Harooni had been dating for about seven months and that he had recently rented a room at the Hamilton Road residence and that Harooni stayed there with him several times a week.
The investigation led to another Uber driver who transported Forman and Harooni from PJ Whelihan’s to the Perkiomen residence about 10:07 p.m. Feb. 2. During that drive, Harooni joked about getting a text message from an ex-boyfriend and Forman repeatedly demanded to see the message, prompting Harooni to tell Forman “you’re scaring me,” the Uber driver allegedly told detectives.
The driver added he observed Forman and Harooni continue the argument on the driveway of the Perkiomen residence and he waited nearby about 10 minutes until he could not hear any more shouting.