A man accused of gunning down a beloved corner store owner inside her South Philadelphia business on Christmas Eve over a feud with the elderly woman's grandson appeared in court Wednesday as a close friend and her own grandson testified.
A preliminary hearing in Maurice Green’s murder case took place Wednesday and the judge eventually decided he would stand trial.
Green, who prosecutors say believed Marie Buck's grandson stole a valuable chain from him, allegedly sprayed bullets into Marie's Grocery at S. 6th and Titan streets just before 9 a.m. on Christmas Eve, according to officials.
Buck was struck 11 times by gunfire. She died from her injuries inside the mainstay she's owned for four decades. On Wednesday, Yolanda Chirico, 89, testified about the morning she witnessed her friend Buck get shot in front of her in the store.
Homicide Capt. James Clark said the suspect, who has 17 prior brushes with the law for mostly drug crimes, didn't even fully step into the store that day. Dressed in all black, he opened the door, saw the grandmother and began shooting, Clark said.
"There is videotape of him parking the vehicle, walking down towards the store minutes before the murder, right after the murder, fleeing the scene, getting back into that vehicle and leaving," Clark said.
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Green's attorney, Robert Gamburg, addressed the surveillance video.
"They put together a circumstantial case and I understand that but if you think you can make an ID from that video, you're a better person than I am," he said.
Investigators believe Buck was not Green's original target. Clark said the suspect went to the store that day to shoot her grandson, who was due to work that day but didn't show up.
Green allegedly told investigators the grandson owed him money from an expensive jewelry chain, Clark said. Green estimated the chain's value to be between $5,000 and $10,000. During his testimony Wednesday, Buck claimed he pawned the chain for $2,000 for drug money.
"The defendant had motive," prosecutor Jude Conroy said. "He was looking for the victim's grandson. His vehicle that is recovered matches to a T. Not just the make and model but the dents."
On Wednesday, Robert Buck's former girlfriend testified that she took the chain from Green's house at his request. Angela White testified that her and the grandson were addicted to heroin and crack and would buy drugs from Green. During that time, White said she began a sexual relationship with Green and while alone in his house last spring stole the chain while on the phone with the grandson. The couple then sold the chain on South Street.
The family hasn't opened the store since the killing. Some family members watched Wednesday's court hearing.
"I want the death penalty for him," said Buck's daughter. "I'm sorry. We don't blame my nephew -- not me, not my father, not my family."
Buck's daughter insists her mother would have given Green money for the stolen chain if he had simply asked.
"You don't just walk into somebody's grocery store and brutally kill them," she said. "You ain't getting your money back and you ain't getting your chain."
Green is scheduled to appear in court again on April 19 at 11 a.m. Families of both the suspect and victim got into a loud argument following Wednesday's ruling.
"Obviously, it's an emotional case," Gamburg said. "We have nothing but respect for the victim's family but by the same token it's not going to make it any better to have the wrong person convicted of a crime he didn't commit."