A 42-year-old Philadelphia man will spend the rest of his life in prison after admitting to his role in murdering six people between 2016 and 2018, and attempting to kill one more, Pennsylvania prosecutors said Wednesday.
Ernest Pressley, 42, pleaded guilty 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, according to Jacqueline C. Romero, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “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 press release.
Pressley acknowledged to a court that he had killed four of his victims for money, at the direction of an unidentified drug trafficker. He was arrested after fatally shooting the fourth victim, identified only as S.S. in court records, in Sept. 2018. The subsequent inquiry led investigators to link the 42-year-old to the murders of two tow truck drivers and the wounding of a third a year prior.
The first three victims were shot within the span of 24 hours between Jan. 12 and 13, 2017. Pressley targeted the first—identified in a local news report from the time as Khayyan Fruster—to prevent him from testifying as a witness at an assault trial, according to Romero’s office.
Before assassinating the 28-year-old Fruster, however, Pressley picked one of his A. Bob’s Towing co-workers “at random” and shot the unlucky man, identified as 35-year-old Eric Robinson, to death as he left work, prosecutors said. This was done in an apparent bid to confuse law enforcement, making it seem as though the execution-style slayings were connected to a feud between rival tow truck companies, police said.
A day later, Pressley followed Fruster into his tow truck and opened fire, killing him and wounding another A. Bob’s Towing employee sitting behind the wheel.
Investigators also found that Pressley had killed another man, identified as M.R., at the behest of the trafficker the day before Robinson’s murder.
Pressley was also indirectly responsible for a mistaken-identity murder in July 2018, he admitted, which came about after he gave up the location of a man “he knew was wanted dead” by a figure in the Philadelphia drug trade. (It was not immediately clear if this was the same trafficker as the one involved in the contract killings.)
That same month, Pressley shot an unidentified woman in the arm. Though she survived the attack, she later found out someone had broken into her home and stolen money and jewelry. “Several hours later, Pressley was identified as having sold a Rolex watch belonging to the woman at a Philadelphia pawn shop,” the press release explained.
The earliest murder that Pressley admitted to carrying out occurred on July 19, 2016, when he fatally shot a victim identified as C.Y. as that person sat on a porch. A motivation for the killing was not provided by the prosecutor’s office.
Pressley’s guilty plea, and subsequent conviction, carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Jacqueline Maguire, a special agent with the FBI’s Philadelphia division, called him “an obvious menace with zero respect for human life,” adding that “the city is unequivocally safe with him behind bars.”