February 5, 2019
The murder trial of a Philadelphia man charged with the Feb. 18, 2015, slaying of rapper Nicki Minaj’s tour manager outside an East Germantown bar ended with more questions than answers Tuesday when Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi declared a mistrial.
The jury couldn’t make a unanimous decision on any of the charges facing Khaliyfa Neely, 37, including murder, possession of a criminal instrument with intent, and aggravated assault. The jurors asked almost a dozen questions throughout four days of deliberations, asking to reexamine crime-scene photos and have homicide categories explained again.
De’Von Pickett, 29, Minaj’s tour manager, was fatally stabbed outside Che Bar & Grill, 6364 Stenton Ave. Eric Reese, 30, was stabbed four times but survived. The two were in town from New York with other members of Minaj’s band to rehearse for her European tour.
Adam Geer, an assistant district attorney prosecuting the case with Ed Jaramillo, said it would be retried.
“We really believe in the evidence of this case,” Geer said. “We understand it’s an interesting path for the case, but we’re at where we’re at, and we’ll try again.”
The case originally implicated Pierce Boykin, 35, of East Mount Airy, who was held for trial in 2015. Boykin and Neely were longtime friends and had gone to Che together, meeting a woman and another friend.
Reese and Pickett went to Che’s with three friends. Reese was romantically involved with the bartender, Travia Allen, who previously had a “friends-with-benefits” relationship with Neely, Allen testified.
A fight broke out when Reese tried to walk Allen to her car after her shift, according to testimony.
Boykin testified that he threw the first punch, aiming for Pickett’s face but missing. Reese then punched Boykin in the head from behind, breaking Boykin’s glasses. The two ended up across the street fighting, and Boykin held Reese in a headlock, Boykin said.
Boykin’s trial had been scheduled for Aug. 8, 2016, but he met with prosecutors three days earlier and they dropped murder and other charges against him. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to up to 23 months in state prison. Boykin agreed to testify at Neely’s trial.
“I need my name cleared,” said Boykin, who was arrested at his home five days after Pickett’s death. Police found the black-and-gray jacket that Boykin wore on the fatal night hanging in his closet with Reese’s blood on the right sleeve.
Reese and his friends drove to Einstein Medical Center, where Reese discovered his wounds and Pickett died.
Neely then picked up Boykin and told him police would likely contact him, instructing him to stay quiet, Boykin testified.
Prosecutors said Neely then went to Abington Hospital for a cut hand, telling staff, “It was domestic. I was trying to slash a tire and the knife folded on me.”
A new trial date is expected to be set by Thursday.