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Philadelphia man admits to killing six in murder-for-hire conspiracy


Robert Moran - Philadelphia Inquirer


Ernest Pressley, 42, faces a mandatory life in prison after pleading guilty in federal court.


A 42-year-old Philadelphia man who confessed to slaying six people for money and trying to kill a seventh now faces mandatory life in prison after pleading guilty in a federal case related to his murder-for-hire spree, U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced Wednesday.


Ernest Pressley pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno to one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and four counts of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire — in this case, a mobile phone to plan the killings with a co-conspirator, a drug trafficker.


“We’ve long known that much of Philadelphia’s violent crime is committed by a discrete group of chronic offenders,” Jacqueline Maguire, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, said in a statement Wednesday. “Ernest Pressley is a case in point. Today, he’s admitted to murdering six people and trying to kill a seventh.”


The four counts involving interstate commerce facilities cover the fatal shootings of four victims in 2017 and 2018, Romero said.


As part of his plea deal, Pressley admitted his role in the slayings of two other people in 2016 and 2017, and attempting to kill a woman 2018, Romero said.


In late 2018, Philadelphia police and the FBI began investigating Pressley in connection with the fatal shooting of 45-year-old Shawn Small in Overbrook Park.


Pressley’s other victims included two tow-truck drivers in January 2017. Romero said he was initially directed to kill one, and then randomly selected a second tow-truck driver to kill to make it look like a feud between rival tow-truck drivers.


In another case, Pressley admitted that in 2018 he provided the location of a man being targeted, but another man was mistakenly killed, Romero said.


Pressley tried to fatally shoot a woman in 2018, but she survived. The victim later discovered her home had been ransacked and money and jewelry were taken. A short time later, Pressley was identified as having sold a Rolex watch belonging to the woman at a Philadelphia pawn shop.


“By his own admission, Ernest Pressley is an incredibly dangerous individual with no qualms about accepting money to calculatedly and cold-bloodedly murder anyone,” Romero said in a statement. “With today’s guilty plea and thanks to the dedicated efforts of the investigators on this case, this defendant will now spend the rest of his life behind bars for these heinous crimes.”

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