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Court upholds ruling to suppress gun

| Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

A gun prosecutors say was used to kill three men in Wilkinsburg cannot be used in the trial of one of the men charged with the crime, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

But the court agreed to allow other evidence obtained by the same search warrant to be used in the trial of a second man charged in the slayings nearly five years ago.

The suspects are Elijah Bobby Williams - also known as Bob Torres - and David M. Torres - also known as Michael Williams - . They are charged with the ambush killings of three alleged drug associates on Feb. 18, 1996.

A federal grand jury in New York has indicted both suspects on murder and racketeering charges stemming from their alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar drug ring that extended into Allegheny County.

Daniel Fitzsimmons, the deputy Allegheny County district attorney who is prosecuting the case, said current plans are for the pair to be tried locally on the homicide charge and in New York on the racketeering charge. A final decision will be made by District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

Williams and Torres have passed themselves off as brothers. County police believe Elijah Williams, 44, is the father of David Torres, 27. Both list addresses in New York and Pittsburgh.

Williams and Torres, along with two suspected associates, are awaiting trial in New York. The federal indictment specifically charges three of the four with the Wilkinsburg slayings.

Federal prosecutors have identified the leader of the ring as Xavier Williams, also known as Xavier Torres, who police believe is Elijah Williams' brother and David Torres' uncle.

Only Elijah Williams and David Torres have been charged locally with the slayings, but the federal indictment also charges Xavier Williams with being involved.

Prosecutors have said that two Westmoreland County men - Timothy A. Moore, 25, of Greensburg, and Joel H. Moore, 19, of Slickville - and Robert L. James, 33, of Braddock, were killed over a $2,300 drug debt.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David S. Cercone ruled at a suppression hearing that prosecutors can't introduce a gun purportedly used in the slaying and found in Torres' East Liberty apartment because police did not provide sufficient information to obtain a search warrant.

Cercone also ruled to suppress drugs, money and paraphernalia found in Elijah Williams' apartment in East Liberty - in the same building as the Torres apartment - because the same search warrant was used.

The judge said insufficient evidence was presented in obtaining a subsequent search warrant for a second Williams apartment, in Shadyside, where more evidence of illegal drug activity was found.

After the State Superior Court overturned Cercone's ruling, Williams and Torres appealed to the Supreme Court.

The high court ruled that police failed to provide substantial information to warrant a search of Torres' apartment.

However, the high court agreed with Superior Court that Williams could not claim a right to privacy in his East Liberty apartment because he had testified he did not live there when the slayings occurred.

The court also ruled that Williams did not provide enough evidence to conclude that the search of his Shadyside apartment was unwarranted.

Michael Hasch can be reached at mhasch@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7820.

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