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‘Emotionally exhausting,’ father of woman slain at Cheltenham drive-thru describes attending trial of accused killers

NORRISTOWN — Nearly a year after his daughter’s death, the father of Rachel Elizabeth King, the Cheltenham woman fatally shot as she sat in her vehicle at a Dunkin’ drive-thru, said it’s been “exhausting” listening to testimony at the trial of two people accused of playing roles in King’s murder.

“It has been exhausting, emotionally exhausting. But we’re glad to be at this stage. This is a part of the healing process. So, we’ve waited nearly a year for now,” the Rev. Allen King Jr. said Wednesday during a break at the trial he’s attended all week with his wife, Carol, and more than a dozen other relatives.

“I am a man of God. But I’m also a human, so I’ve been dealing with human emotion and I’ve ridden a roller coaster. So, key words from me are simply these two, to surrender and to submit, surrender to the will of God, submit to the will of God. And that’s my mission,” Rev. King added.

Each day, the reverend and Rachel King’s friends have worn orange clothing or pinned orange ribbons to their clothes in memory of Rachel.

“The orange is Rachel’s favorite color. So in a show of solidarity we’re wearing the orange,” Rev. King said.

King family members are sitting in several rows behind prosecutors as the trial for Julie Jean and Zakkee Alhakim plays out this week in Montgomery County Court.  District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and co-prosecutor Caroline Goldstein allege Jean “orchestrated” the killing of Rachel King, who she considered to be a romantic rival, and conspired with Alhakim, the triggerman who carried out the fatal shooting.

Composite of mugshots of Julie Jean and Zakkee Alhakim
Julie Jean, 35, of Elkins Park, and Zakkee S. Alhakim, 34, of Philadelphia, are charged with first- and third-degree murder and related charges in connection with the April 11, 2023, fatal shooting of Rachel Elizabeth King. (Courtesy of the Montgomery County DA)

Rachel King, 35, a teacher at the Grover Cleveland Mastery Charter School in Philadelphia for 10 years, was shot multiple times as she sat in her vehicle in the drive-thru lane of the Dunkin’ store in the Melrose Shopping Center on West Cheltenham Avenue in Cheltenham at 7:39 a.m. April 11, 2023.

Detectives recovered six 9mm fired cartridge casings in the area where Alhakim had been standing when he allegedly fired gunshots into King’s vehicle.

King had stopped at the Dunkin’ store while on her way to take her 11-year-old son, Jalen, to a violin practice. King’s son was seated in the rear of the vehicle and was not injured during the attack.

On Tuesday, jurors watched a videotaped statement that Jalen, clutching a stuffed teddy bear, gave to child social workers after witnessing his mother’s death.

“Dealing with my daughter’s death has been a process, but to hear and to see what my grandson went through, that leveled me. That took everything in me just to maintain what little composure that I had,” Rev. King said on Wednesday.

“He’s doing remarkably well and we attribute that to prayer. We’ve had, since last April, many people praying for us, that’s still praying for us, they’re praying with us. They’re there when we need them and we believe God answers prayer and Jalen is evidence of that, he truly is. So, he’s doing better than his grandfather,” Rev. King added.

Rachel King (Photo courtesy Montgomery County District Attorney)
Rachel King (Photo courtesy Montgomery County District Attorney)

Jean, 35, of the 7600 block of Washington Lane, Elkins Park, the alleged mastermind of the plot, and Alhakim, 34, of Philadelphia, the alleged triggerman, face charges of first- and third-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and related charges in connection with Rachel King’s death. Testimony at the trial before Judge William R. Carpenter is expected to wrap up on Thursday.

Prosecutors characterized the killing as a murder-for-hire.

The investigation determined Jean had an affair in 2022 with Rachel King’s long-time boyfriend, William Hayes, and when Hayes broke it off, Jean continued to text, call and harass both King and Hayes, prompting Hayes to obtain a Protection From Abuse Order against Jean in December 2022, prosecutors alleged.

Prosecutors argued Jean wanted to get back at Hayes for ending the affair and conspired with Alhakim to kill King, who she considered to be a romantic rival.

During the trial, defense lawyer Shaka M. Johnson, who represents Jean, suggested the prosecution’s case was based on “conjecture” and he urged jurors to be “critical” of the prosecution’s evidence.

Defense lawyer Benjamin Cooper suggested prosecutors have no physical evidence such as DNA or a gun to link Alhakim to the murder.

Carol King and her husband, Allen, the parents of murder victim Rachel King, speak at a news conference in April 2023 where Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele (in background) announced arrests in the homicide investigation. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.)
Carol King and her husband, Allen, the parents of murder victim Rachel King, speak at a news conference in April 2023 where Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele (in background) announced arrests in the homicide investigation. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.)

Detectives determined, through witness statements and surveillance video, that King’s vehicle was followed from her residence in the Lynnewood Gardens Apartments by a silver Mercury Sable that authorities linked to Alhakim. As King pulled into the Dunkin’ drive-thru, Alhakim parked a short distance away and then walked to the driver’s side window of King’s vehicle and shot her multiple times before returning to his vehicle and fleeing, prosecutors alleged.

The investigation determined Alhakim and Jean knew each other through a mutual acquaintance and that since February 2023 they communicated and met multiple times leading up to the murder. The Mercury Sable was obtained by Alhakim on March 30 and was purchased in Jean’s name, according to testimony.

On Wednesday, county Detective Gregory Henry testified he and Cheltenham Detective Ryan Murray interviewed Alhakim on April 12 and he initially denied knowing Jean and did not admit to knowing her until he was confronted with the evidence that he had placed the purchase of the Mercury Sable in her name. But Alhakim denied being in Cheltenham or driving the Sable the morning that King was murdered.

Zakkee Alhakim is escorted by a deputy sheriff from a Montgomery County courtroom on March 18, 2024 during a break at his homicide trial. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. - MediaNews Group)
Zakkee Alhakim is escorted by a deputy sheriff from a Montgomery County courtroom on March 18, 2024 during a break at his homicide trial. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. – MediaNews Group)

County Detective Heather Long testified on Wednesday that she interviewed Jean on April 12. At that time, Jean denied providing any money to the salesman for the Mercury Sable.

Jurors listened to the audio recordings of the statements provided by Jean and Alhakim.

Long, an expert in historical call detail records, testified that data from Alhakim’s cellphone placed the phone in the area of King’s residence in the early morning hours of April 11 and near the Dunkin’ store at the time of the fatal shooting.

A further review of Alhakim’s cellphone uncovered a screen capture of a map showing the exact location of King’s residence and an overlay in red marker drawing showing a route of travel directly to the victim’s house, detectives alleged.

Detectives also found a screen capture on Alhakim’s cellphone that contained a collage of photographs of King and another screen capture of a photograph of King that was displayed on the screen of what is believed to be Jean’s cellphone, according to court documents.

Julie Jean is escorted by a deputy sheriff from a Montgomery County courtroom on March 18, 2024, during a break at her homicide trial. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. - MediaNews Group)
Julie Jean is escorted by a deputy sheriff from a Montgomery County courtroom on March 18, 2024, during a break at her homicide trial. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. – MediaNews Group)

A photograph depicting a Polymer P80 ghost gun, which is consistent with the firearm authorities believe was used to kill King, also was found on Alhakim’s cellphone, according to testimony.

The ghost gun was never recovered. When he was interviewed by detectives, Alhakim denied ever owning a gun.

After the shooting, investigators released surveillance photos of the silver Mercury Sable and asked for the public’s help in identifying the owner of the vehicle. Shortly after the release of the photos, Philadelphia detectives relayed that they believed the same vehicle was involved in a shooting and homicide in Philadelphia on April 7, 2023, and that Alhakim was a suspect in that alleged crime.

Philadelphia police recovered 11 fired 9mm cartridge casings at the April 7 murder scene.

On April 13, investigators received information that a comparison of the 9mm fired cartridge casings from the Cheltenham and Philadelphia homicide scenes determined the same firearm was used in both incidents, according to the criminal complaint.

Alhakim also is facing homicide charges in connection with the April 7 incident in Philadelphia.

Alhakim was apprehended by Philadelphia police on April 11 just hours after King’s fatal shooting while he was operating the Mercury Sable.


Source: Berkshire mont

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