Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
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Monday, October 20, 2014
Bensalem man accused in cop stabbing now charged in 2013 murder
Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2014
A Bensalem man accused of stabbing a police officer earlier this year has been charged in the murder and robbery of a 30-year-old Bristol Township man in Philadelphia.
Matthew Miller, 24, of the 400 block of Wicker Avenue, was arraigned Wednesday in Philadelphia on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery and possessing an instrument of crime in last year’s beating death of Joseph Britton. He was denied bail.
Britton was found unresponsive and bleeding from the head in the driver’s seat of a borrowed Hyundai in the 5900 block of Charles Street on Sept. 14, 2013. An autopsy later found Britton died of blunt force trauma as a result of blows to his head, police said.
Britton, a recovering drug abuser, did not have any drugs or money on him when he was found and police said his wallet was still in his pocket.
Following his arraignment, Miller was returned to Bucks County prison, where he is awaiting trial on attempted homicide, escape and related charges stemming from the June 10 stabbing of Bensalem police Officer Michael Jachimski.
Miller, who also goes by the surname Cordero, is the third person charged in Britton’s murder. In April, Britton’s ex-girlfriend Krista McDevitt, 24, and Ian Pawlowic, 21, of Philadelphia, were charged with second-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery and related offenses. In September, both pleaded guilty in the case and are awaiting sentencing next month.
McDevitt pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, conspiracy and robbery, and charges of theft and possession of a weapon were dropped, according to court records. Pawlowic also pleaded guilty to robbery and conspiracy to robbery; the DA dropped charges of second-degree murder and possessing an instrument of crime, according to online court records.
At the time of her arrest, McDevitt had been serving a six- to 24-month sentence in state prison after pleading guilty in Bucks County Court to an access device crime in February. That crime took place in Middletown a few weeks before Britton’s murder, according to online court records.
Members of the Britton family, many of whom live in Croydon, said the last time they saw Joseph was following a church service in Trenton the night before his death. His family said Britton was beaten with a baseball bat and found in his roommate’s car in the Wissinoming section of the city.
On Wednesday, Donna Britton Palmer said that her son did not know Miller, who was McDevitt’s new boyfriend. She added that McDevitt had met Pawlowic a few months earlier.
Miller’s name surfaced as a suspect early in the murder investigation, Britton Palmer said, but she doesn’t know why he was not arrested with McDevitt and Pawlowic in April. She added that police have told her the other two suspects say Miller is the one who killed Britton.
His family said that Britton was mechanically inclined and had been fixing lawn mowers and selling scrap metal to support himself. He also had an uncanny knack for winning money from lottery scratch-off tickets, family members said.
Britton Palmer said Philadelphia police notified her on Oct. 10, her son’s birthday, that Miller was going to be charged in his murder.
With Miller’s arrest, she said she can begin the emotional healing process.
“Getting closer to closure,” she said, adding, that there’s “a lot of relief that he is not going to get away with it.”
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler on Wednesday said that the Philadelphia murder charge will not interfere with his office’s prosecution of Miller for attempted homicide, escape and related charges.
Miller is accused of stabbing Jachimski, the Bensalem officer who was attempting to take him into custody on an arrest warrant after he allegedly walked away without permission from the Doylestown minimum security Community Corrections center on June 6.
During the scuffle, Miller pulled out a black folding knife and lunged at the officer several times before striking the officer’s protective vest, police said. The knife hit the vest about 1½-inches above its bottom edge, but the officer was not injured, authorities said.
In 2010, Miller — who has a long criminal history — also went AWOL from Bucks County’s prison work release program, according to court records.
Miller has been incarcerated in Bucks County prison since June in lieu of two separate bails in his Bucks County cases: $5 million cash in connection with the stabbing and 10 percent of $1 million for the escape.