3 get life in prison without parole in slaying of Chester Rite Aid manager during holdup

3 get life in prison without parole in slaying of Chester Rite Aid manager during holdup


MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> Three Philadelphians convicted of murder in the September 2013 shooting death of Jason Scott McClay inside a Chester Rite Aid were sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Tariq Mahmud, 25, and David Wiggins, 26, were each found guilty of second-degree murder following a trial before Judge George Pagano earlier this year, while Rita Pultro, who pulled the trigger on the handgun that ended McClay’s life, was convicted of first-degree murder.

All of the defendants also were convicted on conspiracy and robbery charges, and Wiggins and Pultro were additionally found guilty of firearms not to be carried without a license.

McClay, 40, of Marple, was a Haverford High School graduate and a U.S. Navy veteran who was working at the store at Ninth Street and Highland Avenue on the night of Sept. 19, 2013.

He was fatally shot during a scuffle with Pultro after he learned she and Wiggins intended to rob the store. Wiggins and Pultro fled to a waiting vehicle driven by Christopher Parks, 25. Mahmud, a four-year Rite Aid employee who worked with McClay, helped coordinate the robbery, as well as several others Parks and his 21-year-old cousin Ashaniere White had participated in.

Parks and White, who had pleaded to charges of robbery and murder in the third degree prior to trial and testified against the other defendants, were each sentenced last week to 15 to 50 years in a state correctional facility. They also were sentenced to seven to 14 years each under separate cases for prior robberies that occurred at the same location. Judge Pagano ran White’s sentence under those robberies concurrently, but gave Parks consecutive time, for an aggregate 22 to 64 years. Neither defendant is eligible for early release.

Each of the first- and second-degree murder convictions carries a statutory sentence of life without parole. Much of Friday’s hearing dealt with whether the defendants should be given consecutive sentences on the additional charges.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher DiRosato argued that each of the defendants should be given consecutive sentences for their varying levels of complicity in McClay’s murder: Mahmud as the mastermind; Wiggins as an actor and the supplier of the fatal weapon; and Pultro as the one who pulled the trigger.

Eugene Tinari, representing Mahmud, argued that this case – heinous as it was – did not rise to the same level as a kidnap or torture that would require a consecutive sentence. Pultro’s attorney, William Patrick Wismer, read the guidelines for pardon and commutation into the record, and Debra Denise Rainey, representing Wiggins, noted her client had owned up to his involvement from the start.

Judge Pagano said he had no problem putting on the record that he did not think any of the defendants should be free again, though he noted that is not his decision to make. In the end, only Pultro received a consecutive sentence of 10 to 20 years for conspiracy. She was also given a consecutive sentence of three and a half to seven years for a probation violation.

Wiggins told McClay’s numerous friends and family members gathered in the courtroom that the victim will always be in his prayers, while Mahmud said he hopes their journey on the road to recovery is made easier.

Pultro did not speak. McClay’s mother, Margie Reiley, said after the hearing that she had not expected her to.

“I just don’t think it’s in her nature,” she said.

Reiley read the same statement she had given at sentencing for Parks and White, which described her son as a kind, gentle and generous man with a contagious laugh and tremendous sense of humor that allowed him to envision life from a lighter side.

McClay’s sister, father, grandfather, step-father and uncle echoed those sentiments in their statements, describing a man whose sole purpose on Earth seemed to be encouraging, helping and mentoring others.

“He was the glue which held our blended families together and his death has left a hole in all of our hearts,” said Reiley. “It’s hard for me to watch my children and (his father) Bruce’s children deal with such a tremendous loss, especially when I have always tried to encourage them to look for the best in all human beings. I still believe in those values, although this tremendous loss is, at times, too much to bear.”

McClay’s grandfather, Robert Davis, addressed his remarks to Mahmud, who he viewed as the person who set all of the events leading up to his grandson’s death into motion.

“It’s because of you that we are here today,” he said. “You not only ruined your life, but also the lives of your so-called friends. A group of five – all in their 20s – will be spending the best years of their lives in prison, because of you. Jason was a very well-liked person, one who was an asset to humanity. …I can’t forgive you for what you did – not now, anyway – but I hope in the near future that I will be (able to).”


2 Responses

  1. When we criticize pharmacists for being defensive, suspicious and quick to characterize people, we have to realize that events like this create a climate of fear. What a shame.
    Isn’t there some way to bring safety and sanity to this entire conversation?
    Isn’t it time to look at strict regulation of all drugs and treatment for addicts who want to steal them?
    Isn’t it time to take a look at the Harrison narcotics act of 1914 and reverse it?
    Alcohol and cigarettes are both highly regulated and we dont have gang wars over them any more.

    • In many cases it is not the addicts that rob pharmacies at gun point. It’s those who profit from addicts.
      My pharmacy got robbed at gun point just last Friday. They pointed one of the guns at me and the other one at my people and demanded money and oxys. Thanks God my people did not get physically hurt, but emotionally they suffered badly.

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