No. 499 Pittsburgh, 1980, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Erie County, Nos. 408, 448 and 449 of 1979.
Shad Connelly, Assistant District Attorney, Erie, for the Commonwealth, appellant.
Carnela Presogna, Erie, for appellee.
Wickersham, Wieand and Beck, JJ.
[ 302 Pa. Super. Page 530]
Riley Larkins, Jr. was tried by jury and convicted of two counts of rape, two counts of robbery, three counts of assault and one count of criminal attempt. The charges arose out of three separate, early morning assaults on young women in Erie County during August, 1977. Prior to trial the court had granted a Commonwealth motion to consolidate the informations for trial, so that one trial included all charges arising from the three incidents. Following conviction, Larkins filed motions for new trial and in arrest of judgment. The court, sitting en banc, concluded that the informations had been improperly consolidated for trial and awarded a new trial. The Commonwealth appealed.*fn1 We reverse.
On August 4, 1977, at approximately 2:30 a. m., Nancy Elizabeth Alexander was assaulted and raped by a black male who had entered her home at 156 West Second Street in the City of Erie while she was asleep in the living room. The assailant wore a stocking over his head which concealed his face. Ms. Alexander, therefore, was unable to identify Larkins as her attacker. However, she did testify that her assailant, who was wearing leather gloves, attacked her from behind and dragged her into the bedroom, where the forced sexual act took place. Following her attacker's departure from the apartment, Ms. Alexander realized that her pocketbook was missing and had been taken.
[ 302 Pa. Super. Page 531]
On August 19, 1977, at approximately 5:00 a. m., Lorraine Griffin was returning to her home in the vicinity of Fifth and Liberty Streets in Erie. As she approached the front entrance to her home, she was attacked from behind by a black male wearing a leather glove. He grabbed her purse and dragged her into the back yard, where he removed her clothes and engaged in a struggle with her. He departed hastily when a neighbor with a gun entered the yard.
On August 26, 1977, at approximately 5:30 a. m., as she left for work from her apartment at 400 Joshua Drive in Erie, Mrs. Deborah Stahlman was assaulted from behind by a black man wearing a black leather glove. As he dragged her into a nearby field he told her that all he wanted was her purse. Nonetheless, he pulled down her slacks and undergarments and raped her. Mrs. Stahlman identified Riley Larkins as her assailant.
A subsequent search of Larkins' apartment, conducted by members of the Erie and Millcreek Township Police Departments, together with a member of the Pennsylvania State Police, produced the pocketbooks of two of the victims. They were found in a hole in an attic crawl space immediately adjacent to and easily accessible from Larkins' apartment. In conversation with Officer Wittenburg of the Millcreek Township Police Department and Trooper Lococo of the Pennsylvania State Police, Larkins admitted generally his involvement in a series of rapes which had occurred in the Erie area during the late summer of 1977. He admitted specifically the rape of Mrs. Stahlman. He further indicated that he had taken the purses of his victims, discarding some and retaining others.
As a general proposition, the grant or denial of a severance or the consolidation of charges for trial is a matter of discretion with the trial judge, and his decision will be reversed only for manifest abuse of discretion or prejudice to the defendant. Commonwealth v. Peterson, 453 Pa. 187, 193, 307 A.2d 264, 267 (1973); Commonwealth v. Patrick, 416 Pa. ...