Death sought in Pettis murder

The Times Herald

COURTHOUSE – Accused killer Corey Jemeal Wright may forfeit his own life if convicted of first-degree murder for July’s revenge shooting death of a young Norristown mother.

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Thomas W. McGoldrick Tuesday formally notified the court that he will be seeking the death penalty in the case. Wright, 26, of the 400 block of Forest Avenue, Norristown, is charged with first- and third-degree murder, firearms violations and perjury in connection with the July 6 slaying of 22-year-old Rose Pettis of the 200 block of East Jacoby Street, Norristown. Pettis’ murder warrants the death penalty because of the “particular offensive facts of the case,” according to McGoldrick. “We have a young mother gunned down inside her own car with her little daughter strapped in the back seat a couple of feet away during the middle of the day on the streets in Norristown,” said McGoldrick, who will try the case with co-counsel Assistant District Attorney Brendan M. Campbell. “We will contend that this is a case of misplaced revenge,” McGoldrick added.

The two aggravating factors he will argue in seeking the death penalty is that Wright’s alleged actions created a grave risk of death for another, specifically Pettis’ daughter, and that Wright committed a felony while he was barred from carrying a gun because of prior criminal offenses, said McGoldrick. McGoldrick’s comments came during Wright’s formal arraignment before Judge Thomas P. Rogers. Wright, who is represented by Philadelphia attorney Michael J. Diamondstein, waived his right to a formal reading of the charges against him, opting instead to fill out a written form pleading not guilty to all of the charges against him. Wright is scheduled to go to trial in the case in mid-April.

Pettis was driving on East Jacoby Street at about 10 a.m. on July 6 when a man in a black Nissan Maxima opened fire, pumping four bullets into her car. Pettis, who was fatally wounded in the chest, lost control of her car which then crashed into a wooden picket fence in front of the 900 block of DeKalb Street before stopping. Her 11-month-old daughter, who was strapped into a car seat in the back, was not harmed although one of the bullets struck a post between the front and rear seats, according to authorities. The motive for Pettis’ slaying was “vigilante revenge” for the Aug. 31, 2005, killing of Wright’s brother, Kevin “Dirt” Foster, also known as Kevin Wright, according to authorities. Authorities allege that the 22-year-old Foster was gunned down by Turon Kasid “Riz” Stuart, 28, a former Norristown resident who most recently was living in Philadelphia. Foster died of multiple gunshot wounds suffered in a drive-by afternoon shooting on Elm Street.

An arrest warrant subsequently was issued for Stuart, who had argued with Foster the previous night. However, Stuart went on the lam and was not nabbed by authorities until a week-plus after Pettis’ murder. Stuart was Pettis’ boyfriend and the father of her child. He was driving Pettis’ Dodge Intrepid at the time of the Foster killing, according to authorities. Stuart now is being held in jail without bail on charges of first- and third-degree murder and related offenses for Foster’s killing. Prosecutors will not announce whether they will seek a death penalty for Stuart until he is formally arraigned in county court. Unable to find Stuart to avenge his brother’s murder, Wright opted instead to go after Pettis, according to authorities.

Margaret Gibbons can be reached at [email protected] or 610-272-2501 ext. 216.

By: Margaret Gibbons