Police: Whitehall bride killed groom hours before wedding
Fiance’s heart was punctured in stabbing, preliminary report found.
By Sam Kennedy and Patrick Lester
August 11, 2012
“You got to check again!” Na Cola Darcel Franklin pleaded to the judge during her arraignment Saturday afternoon.
The 31-year-old Whitehall Township woman apparently was unable to comprehend that her fiance, Billy Rafeal Brewster, 36, was dead — and that she was being charged with murdering him on their wedding day.
District Judge Donna Butler responded matter-of-factly.
“He was pronounced dead by the Lehigh County coroner earlier today,” she said.
Franklin wailed and covered her face in her hands.
“I want my family back,” she gasped, rocking gently back and forth. “I want to go home.”
“You are not going home any time in the near future,” Butler told the would-be bride.
Police were called to Franklin and Brewster’s apartment at 1580 Olympic Circle North at 2:19 a.m. Saturday. When they arrived, officers saw Brewster bleeding from the torso as he lay on the landing outside his apartment.
He was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, but was pronounced dead at 3:24 a.m., Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said in a news release.
The Lehigh County coroner’s office said the cause of death was a stab wound. The preliminary investigation revealed two stab wounds on Brewster’s left torso that resulted in a punctured heart.
Franklin, who already had been disarmed by Brewster’s cousin and his wife, was arrested and brought to Lehigh County Prison in Allentown, police said. She was arraigned by Butler, whose office is in Emmaus, via video conferencing.
Franklin, looking dazed, appeared before the camera in a prison jumpsuit and neat, shoulder-length hair.
Butler read the charge aloud and asked Franklin if she understood it. Franklin stared into the camera, mute.
Did she understand the charge — one count of homicide — Butler asked her again.
Crying, Franklin choked out the words one at a time, each interrupted by sobs.
“I … did … not … kill … him … on … purpose,” she said.
Franklin and Brewster were supposed to marry at 10 a.m. Saturday, according to a police affidavit.
Brewster’s cousin, Nakia Kali, and his wife, Monique Kali, traveled from Illinois for the event and were staying with the couple in Whitehall, police said. Also in the house were four children.
According to Monique Kali’s account to police:
She and her husband were in a bedroom when Franklin and Brewster began to argue. Brewster had just announced that he was going out to get food for the group. Kali’s husband left the bedroom to see what was going on. Somebody yelled “knife.” She then stepped into the living room and saw her husband standing between Franklin and Brewster.
Franklin was swinging a knife, and Brewster was bleeding from his side, Monique Kali told police. Afraid her husband would be stabbed, she tackled Franklin, and her husband knocked the knife from Franklin’s hand.
Kali said Brewster made his way out of the apartment, and one of the children picked up the knife and brought it into the kitchen.
Steve Engel, who lives across the hall from the second-floor apartment where the stabbing took place, said he heard nothing leading up to or during the incident.
He didn’t realize what had happened until he woke up and saw police officers at his building Saturday morning. Investigators took about eight or nine bags of items out of the apartment, Engel said. A number of people who were apparently going to the wedding showed up at the building throughout the day.
“There’s been a lot of people in and out all day long,” he said.
Engel said the pastor who was supposed to perform the ceremony also came to the building after not being able to reach either of them.
He said Brewster and Franklin had lived in the apartment building in the Olympic Gardens neighborhood with three children for about a year. Engel, who drives for a limousine service, knew they were getting married only because Franklin had asked him about renting a limousine.
“I never heard an argument,” he said. “They were very friendly people. Very quiet.”
But some children who live in the apartment next to Brewster’s and Franklin’s said they heard arguing early Saturday morning.