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September 22, 2022

Philly man pleads guilty to four fatal shootings in murder-for-hire plot

Ernest Pressley, 42, also confessed to two other killings as part of his plea deal; He faces life in prison

Crime Murders
Murder for Hire Plot Bill Oxford/Unsplash

Ernest Pressley, 42, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty Wednesday to six murders and one attempted murder, some of which were were at the direction of drug traffickers in the city. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

A Philadelphia man pleaded guilty in federal court to six murders and one attempted murder, four of which were part of a murder-for-hire plot directed by drug traffickers, prosecutors said Wednesday.  

Ernest Pressley, 42, admitted to his role in the crimes and faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The case was investigated by the FBI in collaboration with the Philadelphia Police Department and District Attorney's Office. 

The investigation began in late 2018 when Pressley was arrested in connection with the murder of a man in Overbrook in September of that year. The incident occurred in the parking lot of an apartment complex near 7400 Malvern Ave. Pressley was seen on surveillance footage near the scene of the crime and on surveillance cameras at the same bar as the victim the night before. 

Officials eventually discovered that Pressley was also responsible for other murders. In January 2017, two tow truck workers employed by A. Bob's Towing in Frankford were fatally shot over the course of two days. Pressley was arrested in connection with those murders — as well as injury to one of the victim's co-workers — in 2020.

In court, Pressley admitted that he agreed to kill a driver in exchange for money in order to prevent the victim from testifying in an assault trial. In order to distract from the motivation in the killing, Pressley chose a random co-worker of the victim to fatally shoot as well, prosecutors said. 

Pressley also fatally shot another victim during that time in the Stenton section of Mount Airy. At the time, the victim was working on his vehicle at a garage. 

"By his own admission, Ernest Pressley is an incredibly dangerous individual with no qualms about accepting money to calculatedly and cold-bloodedly murder anyone," said U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero. "With today's guilty plea and thanks to the dedicated efforts of the investigators on this case, this defendant will now spend the rest of his life behind bars for these heinous crimes." 

Pressley admitted to killing all four of the victims in exchange for money and at the direction of a drug trafficker. Romero noted that he used his cell phone to communicate with the co-conspirator and to facilitate how and when the killings would take place. 

Incidents uncovered during the investigation stemmed back to 2016, when Pressley fatally shot a victim while he was sitting on the porch of a residence near 1500 W. Olney Ave. in Ogontz. 

Pressley also admitted that he provided the location of a man he knew was wanted dead by a drug trafficker. The incident lead to the death of a different person in a case of mistaken identity near 56th and Ithan Streets in Kingsessing in July 2018. 

During that same period, Pressley attempted to murder a woman by shooting her multiple times in the arm as she arrived at her home on N. Woodstock Street in Fairmount. Though the woman survived, she later discovered that her home had been ransacked and burglarized. 

Several hours later, Pressley was identified selling her Rolex watch at a pawn shop in the city. 

"We've long known that much of Philadelphia's violent crime is committed by a discrete group of chronic offenders," said Jacqueline Maguire, special agent for the FBI's Philadelphia Division. "Ernest Pressley is case in point. Today, he's admitted to murdering six people and trying to kill a seventh. He's an obvious menace with zero respect for human life and the city is unequivocally safer with him behind bars."