A York City man charged with a botched robbery that resulted in the shooting of 41-year-old Whispering Wind Bear Spirit last month is on trial.
Ryan Craig Strada, 20, of the 800 block of Cedar Village Avenue in York City, videotaped District Judge Joel N. Toluba on Wednesday afternoon for a preliminary hearing.
He is charged with criminal homicide, robbery and aggravated assault, conspiracy to robbery, burglary and assault and conspiracy to break into that robbery. All are first-degree offenses. Strada faces a maximum life sentence if found guilty.
Toluba believed on Wednesday that there was enough evidence for Strada to be tried in York County Court. His formal indictment is due before Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock on June 28. He remains in York County Prison without bail.
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Strada and younger brother Nicholas Samuel Strada, 17, who authorities said was still at large on Wednesday, are charged in connection with the fatal shooting of Whispering Wind Bear Spirit – previously known as Jennifer Jean Makos, according to authorities.
Police said Spirit was shot once in the upper body on May 3 at a friend’s house on the 300 block on Smyser Street. Spirit was admitted to WellSpan York Hospital and died of liver damage during surgery, police said.
Oscar Fink, Spirit’s friend, testified Wednesday that the Strada brothers broke into his home unannounced and uninvited on the night of the shooting to confront him about stolen marijuana.
“Ryan accused me of stealing weed from him,” Fink testified on Wednesday, saying the two had hit it off by then, which was about two days before the shooting.
Fink said he “excited” and “wrestled” Strada in the living room and was unaware that there was a gun until Spirit became involved in the deadly conflict.
Spirit – who according to authorities was hearing impaired and had hearing aids – tried to get the intruders out of the house and confronted Nicholas Strada, who according to court documents had the gun.
“I didn’t see the gun until I heard it,” said Fink.
The Strada brothers and four other people, who were also charged in connection with the murder, fled when Spirit was shot, according to police. Fink said his wife called 911 when she came downstairs and saw Spirit lying on the floor. The police responded around 11:30 p.m.
“Ryan had some way of getting this weed back,” said York City Police Det. Daniel Kling testified on Wednesday. Kling said surveillance videos from the neighborhood and a couple of suspects’ cell phones helped investigators pinpoint the whereabouts of the Strada brothers and alleged conspirators that night.
The defense attorneys appointed by the court wanted to drop the robbery charges on Wednesday. They argued that Fink’s statement suggests that Ryan Strada allegedly tried to take back his own marijuana. Police also failed to provide evidence that Strada conspired to kill Spirit that night, his lawyers said.
The other four suspects – charged with robbery, burglary and conspiracy to commit both crimes – are Oscar David Cook, 19, of Spring Garden Township; Michael Page Stewart, 22, of Harrisburg; Jaden Tyler Landis, 18, from the Manchester area; and Phillip Cornelius Sullivan, 18, of York Haven.
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Toluba also heard from three of the four suspects on Wednesday – Sullivan waived his right to a preliminary hearing; Stewart was granted a 30-day continuation of his preliminary hearing; and Toluba found there was sufficient evidence for Cook to stand on trial. The formal indictment against Cook is before Judge Trebilcock on June 28th. Landis will hold a preliminary hearing in Judge Toluba on June 9th.
Five York City murders have been linked to marijuana since 2017, according to York City Police Department.