Friend admits role in WC murder
Onray Marchant Winfield pleads guilty to third-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy
WEST CHESTER >> Backstabber. Betrayer. Disloyal friend. Liar
Those were the terms that family members of a murdered 17-year-old West Chester high school student used Friday to describe the character of the skateboarding mate whose knowing ruse led the teenager to the trap that would end in his death, during the sentencing proceeding for the young man in Common Pleas Court.
“You were his friend,” said Idalla Capo to defendant Onray Marchant Winfield, referring to her grandson, Cristian “Freddy” Santiago, who was shot to death during a sham drug deal engineered by a friend of Winfield’s in August 2015. “He trusted you. You skated together. You laughed together. You commiserated together.”
But Capo said Winfield had betrayed Santiago by telling him he wanted to buy marijuana from him, all the time knowing that he was being targeted for a gunpoint robbery. The crime ended
with a gunshot wound to the chest and Santiago’s body dumped by the side of a quiet East Bradford roadway.
Winfield, 20, of West Chester, admitted his part in the scheme and pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, robbery, and conspiracy. He was sentenced to a state prison term of eight to 16 years, followed by 10 years probation.
Fighting back tears, Winfield tried to apologize to Santiago’s family during a brief statement to the court. “I am extremely sorry for everything I have put you through, the agony, the pain, and the loneliness,” Winfield said. “I am truly sorry. I do think about what I’ve done every day. I should have been a better friend and not let him go (to the robbery). But I was only thinking of myself at the time.”
The prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Thomas Ost-Prisco, told Judge James P. MacElree II, who is presiding over the cases, that although there was enough evidence in the case to convict Winfield of second-degree murder, for which he would face a mandatory life sentence without parole, his office had decided to allow him to plead guilty to the lesser third-degree murder charge, a course he said some in Santiago’s family disagreed with.
Ost-Prisco told the judge that Winfield, although central to the overall scheme that led to Santiago’s death, had been the least culpable of the five co-defendants. In addition, he had agreed to cooperate with the prosecution and testify against any of the defendants who go to trial.
Winfield’s attorney, Steven Jarmon of Malvern, told MacElree that he had spoken with his client over the months about possible defense’s to the crime. But he said after hearing a tape recording of a statement Winfield gave to West Chester police he was satisfied the prosecution could make out a case that would send the 20-year-old to state prison for life.
“That was something that was made clear to him from the very beginning,” Jarmon said. “I feel satisfied that he knows what he is doing” by pleading guilty.
“Unfortunately, this is another example in a long line of cases in which a young man was murdered for a nonsensical reason,” said MacElree II in accepting the plea. “A life was taken for a fist-full of dollars and drugs.”
Capo’s eloquent and heart-felt words came from a written statement addressed to MacElree — one that she acknowledged she had read before, and could possibly read again as others involved in the fatal shooting appear before MacElree for sentencing.
“Five times we will do this and try to express the sorry that lives in our hearts,” referring to the number of defendants in the case, one of which has already pleaded guilty and one who is expected to do so next week. “Five times we will be a voice for his life.”
After Capo spoke, Santiago’s mother followed and stood before MacElree to express her feelings about the death of her son and Winfield’s part in it. She, too, laid blame at his feet for purposefully leading him into the trap that had been set and then later deceiving her about her son’s death.
“I would like to ask Onray, ‘Why?’“said Marisol Garcia-Nieves of West Chester, dressed in black and reading from a prepared statement. “Why would you set Cristian up to rob him? He was supposed to be your friend,” the two of them sharing a passion for skateboarding at local skating parks.
She described going to look for Winfield at the West Chester Wawa where he worked at night to see whether he knew of her son’s whereabouts. He denied knowing anything, but told her he would call her if he heard anything, then gave her his phone number. She said he then went to the police to help them find Santiago. “But Onray already knew that Cristian was dead.”
“Now I know he was only trying to cover up his involvement,” she said. The plan to rob Santiago would have fallen apart if Winfield had warned him to stay away. The others knew that they needed him to complete the plan.
“I hope for his family and his mother that he learns from his mistake,” she said. “I will miss Cristian every day of my life.”
According to Ost-Prisco, the murder involved four others besides Winfield. It began with Gerald Myers, Winfield’s friend, who spotted Santiago walking on West Washington Street in the afternoon of Aug. 20, 2015. Knowing the teenager was selling marijuana, Myers said he wanted to rob him of drugs and cash, and asked for Winfield’s help in luring him to site where he and two of his cousins, Bryon Stevens, of Valley and Darrell Woodward, could waylay him.
In a statement to police, Winfield did not offer an explanation as to why Myers had a grudge against Santiago or wanted to harm him. But he said that after talking about the plot with Winfield that afternoon, Myers came to a house on West Washington where he was visiting a girlfriend, Collesha Miller, and announced that it was “time to do this.”
Winfield then contacted Santiago via Twitter and asked him if he could get a “grizzle,” street drug code for a gram of marijuana. According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, Winfield told detectives that Santiago agreed to meet him at the LukOil convenience store at the intersection of West Wayne Avenue and Hannum Avenue, not far away.
Winfield then told Myers the plan had been made, and saw Myers leave the house wearing a black puffy coat, a red bandanna, a black shirt, black pants and black shoes, saying he was leaving to meet his cousins, one of whom had a gun, he said.
According to his statement, Winfield said that Myers returned about 15 minutes later and announced that Santiago was dead. He said that Myers pants were bloodied, and that he was no longer wearing the black coat or bandanna.
Santiago’s lifeless body was found at approximately 10:20 p.m. on the side of the road in the 700 block of Hillsdale Road, a block or so west of the Chester County Art Association, near the Bradford Square townhouse development. A passing motorist had alerted police to the body, thinking it may have been a pedestrian who had been struck while walking on the unlighted stretch of road.
He had been shot once in the chest , allegedly by Woodward, and was pronounced dead at the scene by medical personnel from Good Fellowship Ambulance and Medic 91.
Capo said it remained a mystery to her family why someone like her grandson, who had never been in trouble, could have decided to begin selling marijuana, which ultimately led to his death.
“He stayed away from drugs,” she told MacElree. “He stayed close to home. We don’t know how he got involved in a lifestyle he always expressed he wanted no part of. There were some red flags, but we misread them.”
In October, Miller pleaded guilty to murder and robbery charges and was sentenced to 12 ½ to 25 years in state prison. Stevens, 20 of the 400 block of Harry Road, Coatesville, is scheduled to appear in court next Wednesday for an anticipated plea. Myers ad Woodward are awaiting trial.
“I am truly sorry. I do think about what I’ve done every day. I should have been a better friend and not let him go (to the robbery). But I was only thinking of myself at the time.” — Onray Marchant Winfield
Onray Marchant Winfield