A former employee of Smokin' Joe's Corner was held...

PHILADELPHIA -- A former employee of Smokin' Joe's Corner was held today on charges he murdered three people at the restaurant partly owned by onetime heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier.

A search continued for a second suspect whose identity was not released, police Lt. Edward Funk said.


The victims were gunned down during a robbery at the restaurant in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia last Thursday. Police said several thousand dollars taken during the robbery had not yet been recovered.

Frazier was not at the restaurant at the time of the incident.

Ralph Stokes, 19, of West Philadelphia, was arrested without incident at his home at 5:20 p.m. Tuesday and charged with three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, two counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of aggravated assault, Funk said.

Stokes also was charged with one count each of robbery, theft, conspiracy, receiving stolen property and firearms violations.

Funk said Stokes once worked at the restaurant but did not know when the suspect's employment ended or the circumstances under which he left the job.

According to police, two employees who witnessed the murders said one of the victims, restaurant co-manager Mary Louise Figueroa, 38, apparantly recognized the voice of one of the suspects, both of whom wore red ski masks.


The employees told police Mrs. Figueroa said, 'I can't believe they're doing this to us.'

The gunmen herded four restaurant employees into a walk-in freezer, then rifled the restaurant safe after shooting its lock to open it, police said.

They then returned to the freezer and opened fire, killing Mrs. Figueroa and Eugene Jefferson, 35, a dishwasher at the restaurant, police said. The two other employees were not injured.

The third victim, postal worker Peter Santangelo, 23, apparantly walked into the restaurant to deliver mail during the robbery and was gunned down as he tried to flee, police said.

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