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‘Cold-blooded’ hitman sentenced for murdering 5 people, including 4 he killed at behest of drug trafficker

Ernest Pressley played a role in the murders of six people -- usually as the gunman. (Mugshot: Philadelphia Police Department)

Ernest Pressley played a role in the murders of six people — usually as the gunman. (Mugshot: Philadelphia Police Department)

Blasted as “cold-blooded” and a “career murderer, a Philadelphia man was sentenced on Tuesday to five consecutive life sentences for killing five people, playing a role in a mistaken identity hitjob, and shooting a home resident in the arm. The defendant, Ernest Pressley, 43, pleaded guilty back in September.

He admitted that he killed four of these people for money, on the orders of a drug trafficker, according to the U.S. Department of Justice in Philadelphia.

One of these was a man identified in local news reporting as Shawn Small.

“In late 2018, the Philadelphia Police Department joined with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate Pressley in connection with the murder of S.S., who was shot to death in the parking lot of a Philadelphia apartment complex near 7400 Malvern Avenue in the early morning hours of September 1, 2018,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release, in which they only identified victims by initials.

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Surveillance footage showed Pressley near the scene, authorities said. A Philly bar also had footage showing him with Small and several other men the evening before the murder.

According to federal authorities, he also killed two tow truck drivers with A. Bob’s Towing

Investigators said Pressley targeted Khayyan Fruster to stop him from testifying as a witness at an assault trial. But before doing that, the defendant randomly chose the man’s co-worker Eric Robinson and shot him to death on Jan. 12, 2017, in an attempt to make it seem like the killings were part of a feud between rival tow truck companies.

The next day, Pressley ambushed Fruster while the victim was a passenger in a tow truck operated by a co-worker. The co-worker survived being shot several times in his lower body.

“He’s my grandson,” Fruster’s grandmother Marie Fruster told WTXF when the case was unsolved. “He was the fifth of 14. He lived life to the fullest when he could.”

Pressley on Jan. 11, 2017, also murdered a man identified by the federal government as M.R.

M.R., Fruster, Robinson, and Small each died under the orders of the drug trafficker, authorities said.

“Pressley also admitted to shooting C.Y. to death on July 19, 2016, as C.Y. sat on the porch of a residence near 1500 West Olney Avenue in Philadelphia,” prosecutors wrote.

Then there was the matter of a mistaken identity killing. Pressley gave the location of a man he knew to be wanted

“Pressley also admitted to his role in providing the location of a man he knew was wanted dead by a Philadelphia drug trafficker, which later resulted in the death of Y.H., who was killed as the result of mistaken identity near the intersection of 56th Street and Ithan Street on July 24, 2018,” authorities wrote.

These details are consistent with the shooting death of Yasir Hopkins.

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Pressley also admitted he tried to kill a woman when he shot her in the arm as she arrived home on July 9, 2018.

It was later discovered that her home had been ransacked and items, including money and jewelry, were stolen.

Investigators determined Pressley sold her Rolex watch to a local pawn shop.

The charges were 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.

“Taking a cold-blooded killer like Ernest Pressley off the street for five consecutive life sentences is a prime example of why the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice make tackling violent crime a priority,” said U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Our joint partnerships with the FBI and Philadelphia Police Department make it possible to bring these cases into federal court and secure the severe punishment such a career murderer deserves.”

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