WEST CHESTER >> A Common Pleas Court jury has convicted a West Grove man of committing a string of robberies in the Kennett Square area, including an incident that led to a high speed chase through southern Chester County into downtown Wilmington, Del.
The panel of 10 women and two men in Judge Ann Marie Wheatcraft’s courtroom returned with their verdict Thursday evening after deliberating for about six hours. The jurors found Emmanuel “Criminal” Renter guilty of multiple counts of robbery, one count of aggravated assault, six counts of simple assault, six counts of terroristic threats, six counts of recklessly endangering another person, and four counts of criminal conspiracy.
Renteria, 27, a suspected member of a Latino street gang who has already pleaded guilty to a robbery at a Kennett Square store, will be sentenced by Wheatcraft for all of his robberies at a later date, most likely in July. He did not take the stand in the four-day trial.
Assistant District Attorney Chad Maloney, who prosecuted the case, declined to comment afterwards.
The crimes at the heart of the trial this week occurred in 2013, but Renteria was not charged with them until 2015, after authorities matched his DNA with that found on evidence taken from the scene where he and the two other men who committed the robberies abandoned a car they used to lead police officers on a two-state, high speed car chase into Wilmington.
The robberies took place between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2013, in first New Garden and then Kennett, testified Kennett Police Chief Lydell Nolt, who at the time was a patrol officer in that township.
The New Garden robbery occurred in the 400 block of Pemberton Road. In that incident, two brothers who were outside their trailer were accosted by three men in a white Ford Taurus. One of them, wearing a mask, pointed a gun at first one brother and then the other, and eventually struck the second with the pistol before the trio got in the car and sped away.
A short time later, three men in a similar auto appeared outside a home in the 600 block of Rosedale Road in Kennett, where they confronted a man there. Again, a masked gunman demanded money, pointed the pistol at the victim, and struck him.
The final incident occurred near the intersection of Rosedale Road and McFarland Road in Kennett. The robbers set upon a group of men in another auto, who tried to escape by driving to a nearby mushroom house and hiding there. The robbers followed, and the gunman pointed his weapon at the men inside the car, eventually pulling the trigger. The gun did not go off.
The victims all called police to report the crimes, and described the car the robbers were using. Soon afterwards, state Trooper Aaron Dykes and Kennett Square Officer Andrew Manko spotted a similar vehicle with three men inside near Route 82 in the borough. The two officers began pursuing the car, which did not stop and led the police on the chase into Delaware.
On Tuesday, the jury watched a video of the chase taken from the dash camera of Dykes’ patrol car. The video tracked Manko’s cruiser following the suspect’s car down Route 82, into Hockesssin, Del., then into the heavily residential outskirts and finally to the downtown area of Wilmington.
Dykes told the jury that the cars ran several stop lights and stop signs, and that their speeds approached 90 to 100 mph during the pursuit. The robbers eventually were stopped in traffic in Wilmington and ditched the car, running away on foot.
One man, suspect Saul Alvarez, was apprehended at the scene. The car was later traced to his mother, although a stolen license plate had been attached to the Ford. He later pleaded guilty and is serving a five to 10 years sentence in state prison.
Alvarez was called to testify by Assistant District Attorney Chad Maloney. Although he had given a statement to police in which he implicated Renter in the robberies, he denied remembering anything about the day of the robberies, saying that he was high on prescription drugs.
The DNA evidence against Renter came from a sweatshirt that was found at the scene of the chase end in Wilmington, and from the cylinder of a revolver police said was from the gun used to threaten the robbery victims.
In his opening statement to the jury Maloney called Renteria’s case one involving “greed, violence, and indifference.”
The men involved “were eager to steal money from people who go out and earn it themselves,” Maloney said. In the robberies, two of the targeted victims were pistol-whipped by a masked and hooded gunman, while others had a pistol drawn on them. The gun, however, misfired, and the victims escaped being shot.
In his opening to the panel, on the other hand, defense attorney Thomas McCabe of West Chester urged the jurors to remember that his client was presumed innocent, and it was up to the prosecution to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Look at the complete picture of all the evidence that is presented,” McCabe said. “Nothing places my client in the vehicle.” Authorities have to prove not just that the robberies occurred, but also that Renteria was involved in them, he said.
By the time he was arrested and charged with the 2013 robberies, Renteria had also been charged with an April 2015 armed robbery at a Kennett Square store, a crime in which the robbers allegedly used BB-guns to keep as many as four victims at bay while stealing cash and other items.
Renteria — who as “Criminal” was believed to have been associated with the infamous Sur-13 street gang — admitted that he committed the robbery with another man, Joe Torres-Cortez, known as “Conejo,” according to court documents. He will be sentenced later by Wheatcraft.
He had also been arrested in October 2013 and charged with stabbing another man at a child’s birthday party at a New Garden banquet hall, along with his brother, who was known as “Terrorist.” Both men were acquitted at trial in 2014 of the assault charges.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.