MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Teens London Eley and Timothy Bynum insist they were just blowing off steam when they posted a Facebook exchange about a plot to kill the father of Eley's baby.
But target Corey White's family saw the posts this spring and called police. A Philadelphia judge on Monday upheld felony charges against the pair, who have been detained since their June arrest.
Hours later, the 22-year-old White was gunned down on a southwest Philadelphia street.
"I get the speculative connection to my client," said defense lawyer Gerald Stein, who represents Eley. "The hearing being yesterday and then, boom, the guy's dead a couple of hours later?"
He believes it's mere coincidence — but is nevertheless glad his client was still in custody Monday night when White was killed.
Police said they have several leads in the precision hit on White, not all of them related to the Facebook plot.
Detectives in nearby Upper Darby had been looking to talk to White about a July 18 slaying outside a nightclub. They have a warrant for the suspected gunman, but heard talk that White was the getaway driver and wanted to question him, Superintendent Michael Chitwood said Tuesday.
Police believe the man who shot White had carjacked two movie-goers in Upper Darby at 7:30 p.m., then driven the car to White's neighborhood nearby. One or two men in the car briefly argued with White before the gunman stepped outside and shot him once in the chest. The stolen car was found torched four hours later.
"It could be the Facebook caper that the girlfriend (allegedly arranged) ... or it could be in retaliation for this homicide," Chitwood told The Associated Press.
Eley, who turned 20 last month, was fighting with White this spring about custody of their baby, among other things. The baby was staying with White's family, Stein said.
"That was part of the underlying contention," the attorney said.
After a heated argument in May, police say, Eley wrote on her Facebook page: "I will pay somebody a stack to kill my baby father."
The 18-year-old Bynum, of nearby Darby, answered the call, police alleged.
"Say no more ... what he look like ... where he be at ... need that stack 1st," Bynum allegedly wrote.
A "stack" is slang for $1,000.
Stein has argued that his client was merely venting about her ex-boyfriend and had no intention of following through. But he acknowledges that such rants can have serious consequences when they're posted online.
"Unfortunately, it sort of magnifies the anger," Stein said.
Prosecutors do not believe Eley was joking about the hit. They say she insisted to Bynum, an online friend, that she was serious.
The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported White's death. No one answered the door at his family's home Tuesday afternoon.
Bynum's lawyer, Lopez Thompson, said his family is devastated by the news.
Thompson insisted his client had no intention of killing White when he responded to the Facebook message and had nothing to do with White's shooting. The two did not know each other, Thompson said.
He described Bynum as a high school student with no prior arrests.
Eley has a simple assault case going to trial soon. Her lawyer in that case did not think it involved White.
White had testified at a preliminary hearing in the Facebook case a few weeks ago.
"There was never any indication that he was fearful for his life," Thompson recalled.
Thompson argued that his client had never even been given White's name or a description of him. Police say they found three guns in Bynum's home, but Thompson said one was legally registered to a parent, another was a BB gun and the third was inoperable.
Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dugan on Monday upheld a murder solicitation charge against Eley and a murder conspiracy charge against Bynum. Both are also charged with the illegal use of a computer. No gun charges have been filed against Bynum, although an investigation is under way.
Philadelphia police agree it's too early to say if the Facebook posts led to White's shooting.
"There are a couple of other theories out there," Philadelphia homicide Capt. James Clark said at a news conference.
Stein is glad his client could not make bail Monday, even after it was reduced from $50,000 to $35,000. Bynum, too, remains in custody until a Sept. 6 arraignment on $50,000 bail.
"I'm sort of somewhat happy, ironically, that she was in custody, so at least we know physically she's not involved," he said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press