Talks of threats before slaying

Seventeen days before he was murdered, John Gilbride testified in court that a MOVE supporter had threatened to kill him.

Whether the alleged murder threat was investigated after Gilbride was found shot to death is anyone’s guess.

The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office will say nothing about the year-old, unsolved case.

Neither will the MOVE supporter Gilbride said threatened to kill him.

And though Gilbride’s parents spoke at length last month about their loss, they declined to comment about the alleged murder threat yesterday.

John Gilbride was found shot to death in the parking lot of his Maple Shade apartment complex in the early hours of Sept. 27, 2002. The US Airways baggage supervisor had returned home from work.

He was sitting in his 1985 Crown Victoria when his body was blasted with bullets from an automatic weapon fired through the car window.

More than a year later, investigators remain stumped, and tight-lipped.

They acknowledge the coincidence of Gilbride’s murder happening hours before he was to see his son alone for the first time since walking out on his wife – and the West Philadelphia cult MOVE – years earlier.

But that’s about it.

Officially, investigators have few leads, no suspects and no comment.

Futile fight

John Gilbride should have known better than to fight his ex-wife for custody of their son.

Even she said so in the transcript of a Sept. 9, 2002, Family Court hearing obtained this week by The Inquirer.

The couple were in court that day over a domestic-violence accusation fueled by a custody battle.

Alberta Africa, MOVE’s matriarch, had accused her ex-husband Gilbride of hurting her hand during an Aug. 27, 2002 argument.

Gilbride went to Africa’s Cherry Hill home that morning to pick up his son. Weeks earlier, a Philadelphia judge granted him unsupervised visits.

But MOVE, and Alberta Africa, were adamant: Gilbride was not to be trusted alone with the boy.

“He knows what MOVE’s belief is,” Africa testified. “John knows that my belief would never allow me to just hand him over my son like that.”

Gilbride and Africa testified that they argued about her refusal to honor the court order.

Eventually, Gilbride said MOVE supporter Mario Hardy intervened.

“I told him, ‘Don’t you come close to me. This has nothing to do with you,’ ” Gilbride testified.

Fearing a confrontation, Gilbride said he tried to leave. But Alberta blocked and locked the door.

“And then this guy Mario grabbed me, threw me against the closet door,” Gilbride said. “And he said, ‘Move and I’ll kill you.’ “

More silence

Gilbride did move. He reached for his cellular phone and dialed 911.

But by the time the Cherry Hill police arrived and left, it was Gilbride who was written up for allegedly grabbing Africa and injuring her hand.

Her abuse claim was later rejected by the Camden County Family Court judge, citing inconsistent testimony from Africa, Hardy and the three MOVE members/supporters in the house during the argument.

The judge said nothing about Gilbride’s testimony that his life had been threatened, which came to light only this week with the release of the court transcript.

After twice hanging up on me, Hardy said he’d “rather not” comment.

Hardy said he’s read my previous columns on the Gilbride murder mystery and found them to contain “a lot of slander, a lot of untruths.”

Alberta Africa slammed her front door on me yesterday before I could ask her about the allegation.

And MOVE spokeswoman Ramona Africa, who can usually be counted on for a comment, hung up on me.

“We are not going to take this s-,” she said. “You’re not interested in the truth. You’re only interested in sensationalizing.”

This, from a woman who first speculated the government killed Gilbride.

Lately, she’s taken to saying Gilbride’s not even really dead, that his “so-called murder” may have been staged to harass MOVE.

So much for sensationalism.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Philadelphia Inquirer, USA
Oct. 23, 2003
Monica Yant Kinney

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday October 24, 2003.
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