Both will face charges for Birmingham home invasion
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
DOWNINGTOWN – A college student home for spring break returned from a shopping excursion with her mother about 3 p.m. on March 19 and walked into their Birmingham Township home only to face a man with a red bandana pointing a gun at her face from about three feet away, she said.
The testimony on Monday came during the preliminary hearing in Downingtown district court for Daniel K. Waltson, 17, of Coatesville. His co-defendant, Alexander W. Granger, 18, waived his hearing so his charges, which include robbery, burglary and conspiracy, will advance to county court.
After hearing about an hour of testimony and argument, Magisterial District Judge Rita Arnold ruled that Walston’s case would also be held for trial at the next level. He has been charged as an adult because of the seriousness of the crime, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Rachel Yalisove was one of three witnesses called by Chester County Assistant District Attorney Anthony S. Cottone during the hour-long proceeding; the others were her mother, Karen Wroblewski, and Chester County Detective James F. Ciliberto.
Yalisove said she and her mother knew something was amiss when they pulled into the garage and not only was the light on, but the door between the house and garage was open. She walked in first and saw a young man with a red bandana around his face pointing a silver pistol at her, she testified. “I just turned and ran,” she said. From the driveway, she said she paused to locate her mother, who had been right behind her, and yelled, “Mom, get out of there.”
Wroblewski testified that she walked inside and observed two men, one of whom grabbed her by the back of her coat. “I screamed loudly, and he let me go,” she said, adding that she ran out and yelled for her daughter to call 9-1-1. Both women testified that they went to a neighbor’s home across the street on General Weedon Drive and did not see anyone exit the home.
Ciliberto testified that the teens fled from the back of the residence, where they had previously used a wheeled trashcan to cart the stolen goods, which included two .357 Smith and Wesson pistols. After stashing the jewelry, electronics and coins at Granger’s nearby home in the Fieldpoint subdivision, the teens, armed with the guns, returned to the crime scene for more items shortly before they were interrupted, Ciliberto testified.
Investigators located the teens by following the trashcan tracks, Ciliberto said. When they arrived at Granger’s home, police detained Walston, who was in a Camaro that was starting to exit the garage, Ciliberto said. The driver told police that he had dropped Walston off at Granger’s home between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. and that Walston had called four or five times around 3:30 p.m. asking for a ride home, adding: “Try and get here as soon as possible,” Ciliberto testified.
Ciliberto said Granger made a full, recorded confession, admitting wearing a red bandana and acknowledging that he might have pointed a gun at the residents. “He may have pulled it out; he’s not sure,” Ciliberto testified. Granger said they gained entry into the home after Walston threw a brick through the window, Ciliberto said.
Wroblewski testified that police returned all of the stolen items, except for the guns, which were kept as evidence. She said that the home was thoroughly ransacked and that two crowbars were stuck in a safe in the garage. She said the guns had been in small vaults.
Under cross-examination by Waltson’s attorney, S. Lee Ruslander, Wroblewski said she did not know whether the gun safes required a key to open. She also testified that she did not see either defendant with a gun. “Everything happened so fast,” she said.
Ruslander argued that charges such as possessing an instrument of crime and robbery should be dismissed. He said the only person linking his client to a gun was Granger, who confessed in an effort to curry favor with authorities. Cottone countered that much circumstantial evidence tied Walston to the crimes, and the judge agreed.
Arnold also denied Ruslander’s request to reduce Waltson’s cash bail. After hearing that the bail agency did not recommend a change, Arnold said, “It’s going to stay at $75,000.”
Waltson, who waved to his father and another man as he was led by constables from the courtroom, was returned to Chester County Prison, where both defendants have been held since their arrests on March 19. Arnold set a formal arraignment date of April 25.