Suspect in Mt. Airy robbery spree held for trial after preliminary hearing

Gary Corbett did a lot of walking in his neighborhood.

“It’s free,” he told Philadelphia Police detectives in October, “and it clears my head.”

On one of those East Mt. Airy strolls, Corbett allegedly encountered David Scheid, who was returning to his residence on the 7300 block of Cresheim Road after dinner.

Testifying in court this week, Scheid said that as he entered the driveway of the Cresheimbrook Condominiums at about 8:45 p.m. on Oct. 11, he was struck on the left side of his face without warning.

Falling to the ground, he received two more blows and exclaimed, “Stop hurting me!” His assailant, however, was resolute.

“I’m going to kill you,” he told Scheid before robbing him of his cell phone and $100 cash.

Case goes to court

On Monday, Scheid was one of four victims to testify at preliminary hearing against Corbett, who faces numerous charges in connection to a string of robberies that occurred in Mt. Airy in early October.

Corbett, 33, of the 7300 block of Devon St., is facing numerous charges in connection to five separate incidents that took place over the course of two weeks.

In each case, the victim was allegedly rushed from behind and had valuables – typically a purse or wallet and a cell phone – stolen. Several reported injuries.

Once a pattern was suspected, officers from the 14th Police District were specifically assigned to the area. Despite the heightened attention from police – including a “decoy” officer disguised as a potential victim – the suspect still managed to elude capture for several days.

How the suspect was caught

This changed on the night of Oct. 16, when Mt. Airy resident Carolyn Mather was attacked.

Mather testified that she was in the 7400 block of Boyer St. when she heard footsteps quickly approaching her from behind. She was knocked the ground, and her backpack containing and iPad, cash and other personal items was taken.

While she testified that she did not resist, she said that during the struggle to remove the backpack’s straps from her shoulder, neighbors began to take notice and came out of their homes yelling. Her attacker then fled.

Police subsequently learned that Corbett was allegedly using nearby train tracks as an escape route.

By the time officers arrived, he would be safely at home at an apartment he shared with his girlfriend just blocks away.

However, on the evening Mather was robbed, plain-clothes officers reportedly saw Corbett pass them in a vehicle.

Police pursued Corbett and arrested him near Chestnut Hill Hospital. He was then transferred to Northwest Detectives’ headquarters in Olney.

What police say he said

Shortly after being placed in police custody, Corbett provided a statement to Detective Ted Wolkiewicz admitting to the five robberies, according to officials.

Wolkiewicz testified that when he asked Corbett about the robbery on the 7400 block of Boyer St., the suspect responded, “Dog, I did that.”

“I been in bad times,” Corbett said in that statement, explaining that aggravation from his personal life compelled him to lash out.

While he declined to specify where he fenced the stolen goods, Corbett acknowledged to detectives that the gains from the robberies were fleeting.

“If I got it,” he said, “I spent it or sold it.”

In his defense

Defense attorney Kenneth Williams stated at least twice that the confession “wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.”

Owing to the modus operandi of the robberies – an attack from behind – Williams was especially concerned that none of the victims was able to identify their attacker.

In fact, prosecutors stipulated that the victims would not perform “point of finger” identifications in the courtroom.

As such, Williams said that felt the confession was not properly substantiated by the testimony.

“This case is about identification,” he told NewsWorks.

Nevertheless, Judge Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde held Corbett for court on all charges, which include five counts each of robbery, theft, simple assault and reckless endangerment.

According to court records, Corbett remains in custody at Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility. His formal arraignment is Feb. 18.

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