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August 28, 2014, 9:14 pm

Hearing waived in beating death

David Lawrence charged with murder of former principal


Legal proceedings against David Lawrence, the man accused of murdering former Philadelphia school principal Ennis Kirby Manns, moved forward this week with the preliminary hearing against Lawrence waived by the defendant.

Lawrence, 39, is being held at the Curran–From hold Corrections Facility pending trial. On Wednesday, he waived his right to a preliminary hearing — a legal move that essentially means he won’t contest the statement of the witness against him — and the charge of murder and related offenses stand. In this case, that individual is a material witness to the crime, Susan Freeman.

Freeman was brought to court under a bench warrant, since she fled the city in terror following the murder. While she waited, seated at the witness stand, the fear she had of the defendant was etched into her face. Family members related to Manns sat in the courtroom with stony expressions, carefully observing and listening to the proceedings. So far, they have declined to speak with Tribune reporters.

“We’re not certain yet of the exact nature of the relationship between Ms. Freeman and the defendant, but she’s supposed to have been his girlfriend,” said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore. “This was a drug related incident; apparently, they were all inside the residence getting high and for some reason, things went bad.”

Basically, things went as bad as they could possibly get.

Although not all of the details have come to light, on July 1, 2011, homicide detectives began piecing together the motive behind the beating death of Ennis Kirby Manns, a former Philadelphia School District principal, who was found inside a West Philadelphia apartment house. Several days later, police arrested a suspect, identified as David Lawrence of the 5100 block of Market Street. Lawrence, now 39, has been charged with murder, robbery, auto theft and related offenses. He has only a fifth-grade education, and court documents show he has a history of run-ins with police. He was found guilty of robbery in 1992 and was sentenced to serve a minimum of five years. The slaying of Ennis Kirby Manns was one of five homicides over the July 4th holiday weekend that kicked the number of murders in the city to 167. Manns was found bleeding from his head on July 1 when police responded to the report of a robbery in progress at 6:25 p.m. at 19 North 50th Street. When officers arrived at the scene, Mann was unresponsive. He was rushed to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was pronounced dead at 7:09 p.m.

According to Capt. James Clark of the Homicide Unit, Manns was visiting a friend at the North 50th Street location, which is a small apartment building, when he got into an argument with Lawrence. “The victim was visiting a friend in the building, which is like a triplex apartment. He got into an argument with the resident of the first floor, and the argument escalated into a physical confrontation,” Clark said. “The suspect grabbed a piece of railing, and just beat the man to death.” Investigators report that the incident was drug related, and was sparked by an argument over money that escalated to Manns’ death and subsequent robbery. Investigators also report that Manns and the suspect knew each other, and that there was drug usage before the argument.

Manns retired from the District in September 2010 and last served as the assistant principal of East Washington Rhodes High School from July 2009 to September 2010. He was also a member of the prestigious Olde Philadelphia Club.

Lawrence has been scheduled to be formally arraigned on Feb. 8 in courtroom 1104 at 11 a.m. On that day, it is expected that a date will set for the actual trial to start.