A yellow Jeep Wrangler owned by Christopher Porco was spotted by neighbors racing through the Brockley Drive neighborhood months before a brutal ax attack left Peter Porco dead and his wife, Joan, severely injured. The same yellow Jeep was observed by toll collectors before and after the crime, and a neighbor said he saw it in the family driveway the morning of the Nov. 15, 2004, attacks.
Was the yellow Jeep that Porco purchased in the spring of 2004 the beginning of his undoing?
`It sure didn’t help,` said detective Christopher Bowdish, one of the first Bethlehem police officers at the scene of the Brockley Drive attacks.
Porco purchased the yellow Jeep Wrangler after he electronically forged his father’s signature on a $17,000 loan. Even after his father discovered his deception in purchasing the vehicle, and even after he fell behind on payments, Porco continued to drive the conspicuous vehicle. He drove it the night of the crime right up until Aug. 10, when a jury found him guilty of murdering his father and attempting to murder his mother.
`This is my car, why should I stop driving it,` were the words Bethlehem Police Chief Lou Corsi said describing Porco’s attitude about the car.
During Porco’s murder trial, Thruway toll collectors John Fallon and Karen Russell both testified they remembered a yellow Jeep for completely different reasons.
`I remember a yellow Jeep that came through at 10:45 p.m. right before quitting time,` said Fallon, who worked the exit 46 Henrietta tolls the night of Nov. 14, 2004. Fallon told jurors he purchased Jeeps for both his wife and son, and he is a fan of the unique looking vehicles.
`As the vehicle got closer, I thought it would be a good vehicle for my son,` Fallon testified on July 10.
Russell, a toll collector stationed at exit 24 in Albany, said she remembered Porco’s yellow Jeep driving fast right into her lane at 1:51 a.m. Nov. 15, 2004.
`The speed he was coming into my lane was excessive,` Russell testified
Porco’s Jeep was also identified by University of Rochester surveillance cameras leaving the campus the Sunday night before the crime and driving back through around 8:30 a.m. the next morning.
Jurors took special interest in the testimony of former Brockley Drive resident Marshall Gokey. Gokey was the prosecution’s last witness, and he testified that he saw Porco’s Jeep in the driveway of the Porco family’s home at about 3:45 a.m., around the time the crime is suspected of being committed.
`I can see it pulling up in that driveway,` Gokey said, `It’s the same vehicle.`
Many court observers wondered how someone could remember seeing a car in the dark when driving to work.
`Gokey said that Jeep had been terrorizing the neighborhood,` said chief prosecutor Michael McDermott.
Assistant District attorney David Rossi, who tried the case with McDermott, said Gokey came to authorities the day after the crime to tell them what he saw.
`At the time, he didn’t know anything about the timeline,` said Rossi.
McDermott first believed Porco’s defense team of Terence Kindlon and Laurie Shanks would attack Gokey’s testimony until jurors heard him testify.
`The defense, in mid-stream, changed strategy because they could see the jury liked this guy,` said McDermott.
A few days later the jury came back with a guilty verdict, and the yellow Jeep was once again in the spotlight as photographers took pictures of it as it sat in an empty parking lot outside the Orange County Courthouse, taking in the last rays of Goshen sunlight.
Porco is now in the Albany County Jail awaiting sentencing.