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Teen to be tried as an adult in drug deal killing

| Friday, Oct. 18, 2002, 12:00 p.m.

A 15-year-old alleged drug dealer, who had been charged once before with homicide when he was 14, is headed for trial as an adult on charges he killed a man in a drug deal in April.

Allegheny County Deputy Coroner Timothy G. Uhrich on Thursday ordered Maurice L. Ford, of Mt. Pleasant Road, Northview Heights, to stand trial in the death of Joseph "Mark" Parks, 39, of Highland Avenue, West View.

The only testimony at the preliminary hearing came from Pittsburgh homicide Detective Dennis Logan, who said that Ford had confessed to shooting Parks on April 22 in an alley near Ford's home.

Ford showed no emotion during the 10-minute hearing. His family left without commenting. Ford is being held in a special section for juveniles at the Allegheny County Jail.

Ford was 14 at the time he allegedly shot Parks. Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said that Zappala hasn't decided whether Ford will face the death penalty in Parks' death.

Police charged Ford on Oct. 3 β€” the same week a witness came forward and spoke to police about the shooting. Public defender Kathleen Cribbins, who represented Ford, would not comment when asked if her office plans to seek to have Ford tried as a juvenile.

First Assistant District Attorney Edward Borkowski said prosecuting a juvenile in the adult system is not unusual and that during the mid-1990s the office prosecuted several juvenile gang members on criminal homicide charges. He did not have exact numbers.

β€œIt's not a new phenomenon by any means,” Borkowski said.

Logan testified that Parks approached Ford and asked him if he had any "hard" β€” street slang for crack. Ford showed Parks 20 rocks of cocaine and let Parks pick out five, Logan said.

"Parks gave a look as if he wasn't going to pay and started to leave," the detective said.

As Parks backed away, Ford pulled a revolver from his waistband and shot Parks once in the stomach, Logan said.

The shooting was senseless, said Parks' mother, Delores Muick of West View.

"Because he looked at him, do you know how hard that is (to understand)• This guy had no regard for human life," she said. "It's torn this family apart."

Shortly after the shooting, city Housing Authority police officers responded when Parks' car crashed into a retaining wall along Mt. Pleasant Road. Parks was transported to Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side, where he died.

Pittsburgh detectives had filed criminal homicide charges against Ford, stemming from the July 19 shooting death of Kevin Coates, 17, of Brightridge Street, North Side. Police dropped the charges after Ford agreed to testify against James Freeman, 20, of East Midway Drive, West Mifflin.

Freeman, Ford and Coates had argued, and Freeman later returned and shot Coates during a second altercation, police said. Freeman accidentally shot Ford in the stomach, too, as they fled the scene, police said.

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