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Raymond SOLANO





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Unknown motive
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 3, 2001
Date of arrest: 16 days after
Date of birth: May 16, 1979
Victim profile: Armando Rodriguez, 21
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on May 30, 2003

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania


opinion J-128-2005


The evidence presented at trial established that at approximately 3:00 p.m. on June 3, 2001, a short, stockily built man wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt with the hood drawn over his head, walked onto a basketball court in Valenia Park in the city of Allentown, Pennsylvania and shot the victim, Armondo Rodriguez, several times at close range.

After the victim fell to the ground, the assailant stood over him and shot him several more times. The assailant then ran towards a parking lot, turned around, and shot back towards the crowded park where the victim lay.

At the time the first officer arrived, there were approximately twenty to thirty people in the immediate vicinity. There were several shell casings lying in the area where the victim lay and several more casings were found in or about the adjacent streets. The victim was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

The autopsy revealed a total of six gunshot wounds, all but one of which were fatal wounds. Jose Aquino, a friend of the victim’s, who was also playing basketball at the time, identified Solano as the assailant at trial.

Mr. Jose Aquino testified that he saw Solano standing near the court just prior to the shooting, talking on his cell phone and looking in the direction of the victim. He was able to see Solano’s face before and at the time Solano came charging onto the court.

He testified that he had seen Solano a few days prior to the shooting, wearing the same hooded sweatshirt, but not with the hood over his head.

Another eyewitness, Israel Aquino, testified that he saw the shooter run towards the victim, shoot him several times, stand over him and shoot again. Mr. Israel Aquino testified that he started towards the victim, but when the assailant pointed a gun in his direction, he turned and ran in the opposite direction.

Francisco Rosario, another friend of the victim’s who was also present at the time, testified that he ran as the shooting began. He took cover behind a parked vehicle and pulled out his own gun in an attempt to shoot the assailant. His gun, however, failed to discharge.

As the police arrived, Mr. Rosario placed the gun in the car. The police eventually recovered that gun and when Mr. Rosario admitted ownership thereof, he was charged with possession of a firearm. At the time of the instant trial, Mr. Rosario had completed his sentence for that charge.

With respect to the identity of the shooter, Mr. Rosario testified that while he initially told police that he did not see the shooter because he was afraid, he, in fact, saw the shooter and identified Solano as that shooter.

On June 19, 2001, police in Hartford, Connecticut received information that Solano, wanted in connection with the instant murder, and Cantalino Morales, wanted for attempted murder of deputy sheriffs in Allentown, were staying together in Hartford.

After being provided descriptions of the suspects, the police proceeded to a given location in the Westbrook Village section of Hartford. When they arrived, they observed two individuals, one of whom matched the description they had been given of Cantalino Morales, apparently trying to jump-start a vehicle.

When the individuals were successful in starting the vehicle, the police, believing the subjects were about to leave, moved in on them, announcing their presence and ordering the two people to “get down.” One of the individuals, later identified as Morales, pulled a gun and began shooting towards the officers.

At about the same moment, a man, later identified as Solano, and a female companion exited the rear of the building. Both Solano and Morales fled on foot, with Morales shooting towards police as he fled. As he was running, Morales was observed dropping an object which police later recovered and identified as a 9mm Ruger.

Both individuals were apprehended a few moments later, Solano as he attempted to dive into a wooded area, and Morales who, after pointing another gun towards police, fell only a short distance away from Solano when he was hit by police gunfire.

The gun Morales was holding at the time he was shot was recovered from the scene and identified as a Standard Arms. At the time of his arrest, Solano’s person was searched and, among other things, a handcuff key and a magazine containing live bullets were discovered in his pocket.

The Commonwealth presented a ballistics expert, John Curtis, Jr., who testified that the casings and bullets recovered from the basketball court and properties adjacent to the park were all discharged from the same two firearms found at the time of Solano’s and Morales’ arrest.

Specifically, he found that fifteen shell casings recovered from the scene of the murder and two adjacent streets were discharged from the Ruger semiautomatic pistol, as were the bullets removed from the victim’s body, one bullet found embedded in a wall in a nearby garage, and another bullet lodged in a wall in a second floor room of a nearby home.

Four additional shell casings which were found behind a building a short distance further from the scene were fired from a Standard Arms semiautomatic pistol.

In his defense, Solano presented the testimony of Detective Joseph Effting, of the Allentown Police Department. Detective Effting testified that he had interviewed two eyewitnesses, Jessica Brown and Julio Santiago, who indicated that persons other than the shooter possessed guns at the time and may have also been shooting.

According to Detective Effting, at the time he interviewed Ms. Brown she told him that she had seen the shooter and thought that possibly as many as three other persons had guns in the park that day.

Ms. Brown testified for the Commonwealth, however, that she observed no one but the assailant with a gun but had assumed that someone other than the fleeing assailant was shooting because the assailant was shooting back towards the crowd.

As for Mr. Santiago, Detective Effting testified that when interviewed, Mr. Santiago told him that he thought an individual behind a Jeep may have also been shooting, and that he saw an unidentified individual chasing the shooter as he fled.

However, when he testified for the Commonwealth at trial, Mr. Santiago denied having given Detective Effting any such information. Solano took the stand and testified that he was in Hartford, Connecticut the day of the shooting staying with his aunt.

He testified that he did not even know the victim and did not know Mr. Morales before meeting him in Connecticut. Although he testified that he saw numerous people while in Hartford, the defense presented no witnesses to corroborate Solano’s testimony that he was there at the relevant time.



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