Authorities identify suspects in 2018 murder of West Philly teen

2018 murder
Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Palmer said progress has been made to dismantle two West Philadelphia street gangs.

At some point during the last six years, Naisha Rhoden began to doubt whether detectives would ever figure out what led to the murder of her 17-year-old niece.

Sandrea Williams was fatally shot in May 2018 on the 300 block of N. Simpson Street, near her home in West Philadelphia. Two teenage boys, ages 15 and 17, were struck and survived the gunfire.

“I lost hope, but within the faith that I have, I knew one day we will get answers to our questions,” Rhoden said. “And the question that I have is: Why?”

Prosecutors believe they have that answer. Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Palmer, during a news conference Friday held to announce a break in the case, said the shooting was part of a feud between “two warring groups” in the area.

Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Palmer speaks Monday, Dec. 19, about an investigation into West Philadelphia street groups at the Church of Christian Compassion in Cobbs Creek.Jack Tomczuk

Devin Bryant, 26, turned himself in Tuesday, May 14, and Palmer said he is being charged with murder, two counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy, firearms violations and related charges in connection with Williams’s homicide.

He is being held without bail, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Bryant’s legal counsel could not be identified through court records Sunday.

Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a second suspect – 26-year-old Salik White. He remained at-large Sunday, according to the PPD.

White and Bryant, prosecutors allege, were associated with a street gang based at 61st and Jefferson streets, and they arrived May 11, 2018, on Simpson Street to target members of a rival group known as “O2DA4.”

“Ms. Williams has nothing to do with those groups, which is what makes this so unfortunate,” Palmer told reporters.

No singular breakthrough allowed detectives to pinpoint the accused killers, according to Palmer. Instead, there was a “very piecemeal, painstaking, nonstop investigation for six years,” he said.

In December 2022, District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office announced the arrest of five alleged O2DA4 members, along with warrants for three others. Palmer, at the time, described the investigation as having the potential to deliver a “crippling blow” to the organization.

detectives warrant
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks in Philadelphia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

Significant progress has been made to dismantle both O2DA4 and the 61st and Jefferson group, Palmer said Friday.

Williams spent her early years in Jamaica and had planned to enter the U.S. military, relatives said at the news conference.

“To my family, it’s been six years… six long years. But our tears and our prayers brought us to this day,” Rhoden added. “We missed many birthdays. We missed the graduations. But we will always keep her memories alive.”