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Murder Trial in Collapse Set to Begin

Thursday, September 24, 2015

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More than two years after a downtown Philadelphia building collapse killed six people, the demolition contractor connected to the incident will stand trial for murder.

Griffin Campbell, 51, reportedly rejected a last minute plea offer Monday (Sept. 21), electing instead to take his case to trial, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 29 with jury selection.

Campbell has been charged with six counts of third-degree murder and related offenses, reports say.

The trial is expected to last four weeks. The charges against Campbell could put him in prison for life, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Fatal Demolition

The case stems from June 5, 2013, when a building being demolished toppled onto an adjacent two-story Salvation Army thrift store, killing six and injuring 13.

Killed in the collapse were Juanita Harmon, Roseline Conteh, Mary Simpson, Kimberly Finnegan, Ann Bryan and Borbor Davis. One survivor, pinned in the wreckage for 12 hours, lost both legs.

DA Seth Williams

At the time of Campbell's arrest in November 2013, the Philadelphia District Attorney said he hoped the charges "give the victims and their families some small sense of relief."

Campbell was the general contractor on the job. Sean Benschop, 44, had been operating demolition equipment at the site.

Following the incident the contractor was fined nearly $400,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A review of OSHA's database shows the violations still under contest.

Contractors Charged

Benschop also faced criminal charges for his role in the collapse.

Both men have been in custody since 2013.

In July, Benschop pleaded guilty to six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 12 counts of recklessly endangering another person and other offenses, reports say. He will be sentenced following Campbell’s trial.

His plea deal resulted in the third-degree murder charges against him being dropped and an agreement that prosecutors would not ask for more than 10 to 20 years in prison at sentencing.

A similar plea deal had been offered to Campbell, reports note.

‘Center of Culpability’

Prosecutors have placed Campbell at “the center of culpability” for the collapse, alleging that he ignored safety on the demolition project site and cut corners.

Campbell’s attorney has said others, including the owner of the building under demolition, Richard Basciano, are responsible for the fatal collapse, according to reports.

The collapse prompted city officials to announce new initiatives for demolition sites and contractors, including new standards for demolition permit issuance and site inspections.


Tagged categories: Building materials; Construction; Criminal acts; Demolition; Ethics; Fatalities; Health and safety; Paint application equipment

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