An 18-year-old District man was found guilty Monday of the 2010 fatal shooting of a Catholic University student and rugby player as he rode his bicycle through Petworth on the way home from work.
After a nearly three-week trial and three days of deliberations, a D. C. Superior Court jury found Eric D. Foreman guilty of first-degree murder, robbery and other offenses in the death of Neil Godleski, 31.
Prosecutors had argued that on the evening of Aug. 22, 2010, Godleski was riding home from his job as a waiter at the Phillips Seafood restaurant on the Southwest waterfront. Foreman — who was on a street corner with several friends — fired five shots at Godleski as he reached the intersection of Kansas Avenue and Sherman Circle, authorities said.
Godleski fell off his bicycle, witnesses said, and Foreman fired a shot into him from close range as he tried to get back on.
Witnesses also told authorities that Foreman grabbed a wad of cash Godleski had with him, tips from his shift at the restaurant.
Foreman’s attorney, Jonathan Zucker, had argued that his client was innocent and that Prince Okorie, who was with Foreman that night, had fired the .380 pistol — the gun was never found — that killed Godleski. Okorie, 16, was shot dead about three months later.
Zucker also tried to raise doubts about the honesty of the witnesses who testified against his client, calling them a “parade of perjurers.”
Prosecutors Stephen Gripkey and Adrienne Dedjinou argued that Foreman picked Godleski randomly as he rode past.
“This was a case about the terrible power of choice and the terrible awesomeness of randomness,” Gripkey told the jury during closing arguments. “Mr. Godleski just happened to be going by that evening.”
Prosecutors brought in several of Foreman’s friends, who told a grand jury in the weeks after the shooting that Foreman shot Godleski. But when the witnesses took the stand during the trial, in front of Foreman, his family and friends, they said they could not remember the details of the shooting. None identified Okorie as the shooter.
Prosecutors tried to convince the jury that the witnesses had changed their accounts out of fear and urged jurors to rely on transcripts of their grand jury testimony, rather than their testimony during the trial, as evidence.
As the jury forewoman read the verdict, Foreman’s family members wept silently. Foreman wiped away tears. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Robert E. Morin on Nov. 16. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years.
Godleski’s family, which attended the trial daily, returned home to Connecticut over the weekend. His mother, Heidi, said in an interview last week that she was proud of her son, who had returned to college to finish his degree. She called him a “wonderful and loving man who didn’t deserve to die in such a horrible way.”
Gripkey is also a prosecutor in the retrial of Okorie’s alleged killer, which is to start this week. In March, a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the first trial of Raymond Roseboro, 21, of Northwest.
Roseboro is charged with first-degree murder in Okorie’s death. The gun used in the killing was never recovered, and authorities testified during the hearing before Roseboro’s first trial that Okorie was killed because of rumors that he was cooperating with police in the investigation of Godleski’s death. They later learned that Okorie never identified Foreman to police.