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Murder on Penn Street – A True Story

It’s not every day that you see someone murdered.

Some people would say what’s the big deal, murder isn’t unusual in Frankford and that is true.  It has become true for a lot of cities. But this one was different for me.

It was a cold, Winter night, Saturday, February 20, 2016, almost Midnight and I was thinking about going up to bed. I was just watching TV. We had some unusual windows in our old house.   They were 8 feet tall, right down to the floor so if they were open in 1890 when the house was built you would be able to step right out onto the porch.  Somebody got creative in the 50s and filled in the bottom four feet with glass blocks.  It looks kind of funny from outside but lets in lots of light and you can see every shadow that passed by on the sidewalk out front, if you were looking that way.

I was sitting on the sofa that night, windows to my left and noticed a flash of light go by so I put the video camera system up on the TV.  A minute later I saw two unformed cops come up the street with flashlights looking for something and then they came up on the porch and knocked on the front door.  I asked them what was up, and they said they noticed I had some security cameras out on the porch.  They wanted to know if they worked.

I took some pride in my cameras that I had tediously installed myself two years earlier.  I always thought having them was a deterrent to crime. I told the cops they did work, and they asked if they could come in and see if they captured anything of interest.  So, they came in and I sat on the sofa and brought up the past hour on the system.   They stood and watched.

They were not sure what they were looking for, so I just started looking at the recent footage from out front.  The video played and, in a few minutes, at time stamp 12:36 PM, we found 2 people, who looked like a guy and girl, walking up the 4800 block of Penn Street and they passed our house.  They moved to the property next door, which is a garage with a driveway along the side.  The girl stopped at the edge of the driveway and walked over to the curb and looked back down Penn Street.  She opened up the hoody she was wearing and then they turned to continue walking up Penn Street.  They were about 25 feet away when the guy reached into his pocket and then lunged at the girl. She took off, running toward Harrison Street and then turned and ran toward Frankford Avenue.  He went after her and then quickly turned around and ran back towards Oxford Avenue and out of sight.

The cops said that was it and one of them went outside.  The other said that they had tracked a blood trail from Harrison and Griscom streets up Harrison Street to the spot where the vicious stabbing had taken place.  The girl was over at Aria Frankford hospital.  While we waited, a call came over the radio and announced that the female victim was actually a male.

While we were talking, there came a knock on the door, and it was Captain McCloskey along with the first cop. McCloskey was the 15th District Commander and I had encountered him at a few community meetings since he had taken over the district a few months earlier.  He had a reputation as a Commander who was always out on the street where the action was.  On this night, it proved to be true.  He asked to see the video.  While we watched the video, another transmission over the radio announced that the victim had died.

By then it was midnight and the captain said that they would want to use the video as evidence and so they took all my information and asked that I not do anything to the system, and somebody would contact me about it.

After they left, I sat down and watched the TV for a half hour to calm down.  I had witnessed a murder, only feet from my front door. Even though it was not in real time.  It was sad and tragic to see how death came to the victim so fast and unexpected.  Then I turned off the TV and the lights and went up to bed.

Headline from the Philadelphia Daily News 22 February 2016 from


On Monday morning, the story was in the Inquirer and Daily News, and I learned that the victim had been Norman Lindsey Jr. aka Maya Young.  I had heard that there was an active group of trans women who could be found on Frankford Avenue.  Norman/Maya had a previous arrest for prostitution.  No motive for the murder was mentioned in the news stories.

I waited to hear from the police about the video.  It wasn’t until Tuesday that I saw two men walk up Penn Street and stop outside.  They had the look of Philly Police detectives. They didn’t come up on the porch though, they walked the neighborhood, following the path that the victim had taken.

15 minutes later there was a knock on the door, and I let them in. They sat down and asked some questions and watched the video.  They mentioned that there was also video from the Sugar and Spice store at Frankford and Foulkrod Streets.   The videos helped establish the movements of the couple.  I knew Sam, the owner of Sugar and Spice, and had been in his office.  He had a video system as good as any that was available.  If they were on his video, they murderer was going to be identified.

At some point, a police technician showed up and documented the accuracy of the time stamp on my video and then made a copy to take with him.  There was a legal form for me to sign so that that would let me avoid having to appear in person in court at the trial.  I never heard from the police again.

On March 1st. Tiffany Floyd, 24, of the 4300 block of Cloud Street was arrested.  Floyd had prostitution arrests going back to 2013.  On March 2nd, Jose Pena, 19 years old, of the 900 block of Pratt Street was arrested. He was already a suspect in a previous homicide that took place in April of 2015.  He had no previous arrests. Both were charged with conspiracy and murder.  The motive reported by the newspapers was pure craziness, jealousy, voodoo and spells.  It made no sense at all, as if any murder really makes sense.

Pena had confessed to being the one who stabbed Norman/Mya.  He claimed he was urged to do it by Floyd.

The wheels of justice move slowly but finally on August 22, 2017, Pena pled guilty to Murder of The Third Degree, Conspiracy – Murder of The Third Degree, and Possession Instrument of Crime W/Int and was sentenced to 20 to 40 years and is now at the State Correctional Institution in Huntington.

Floyd also pled guilty to Murder of The Third Degree, Conspiracy – Murder of The Third Degree, and Possession Instrument of Crime W/Int and was sentenced on November 8, 2017 to 8 to 20 years confinement and 10 years’ probation and is now serving her sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Cambridge Springs.

One afternoon in the Fall, I was working outside the house, within sight of where Norman/Mya was stabbed, and a school bus came up the street and parked on the other side.  The driver got out and came over and asked me if I was Mr. Smiley.  I said yes and she said she was Norman’s sister.  She thanked me for helping with the case.  I told her I was sorry for her loss. We chatted for a minute and then she had to get on with her route and boarded her buss and drove off down Penn Street.

It was nice to know that the family appreciated that I helped in some way. I don’t think that my video was the thing that helped solve the case, the cops did that.  But it did make a difference by showing the actual crime.  I didn’t put those cameras up to witness a crime though, I hoped that by being there, they would prevent crime.

I guess if someone has decided to kill, they will find a way but to this day, I still wonder why anybody had to die.