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Philadelphia Police Announce Arrest In ‘Kensington Strangler’ Case

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man recently released from prison and believed to have been wandering the streets and staying in abandoned homes was arrested Monday night after being linked by DNA to the sexual assaults and strangling deaths of three women in a gritty, high-crime section of the city, police said.

Antonio Rodriguez, 21, was taken into custody on an unrelated bench warrant after someone phoned in a tip, police said. The arrest came shortly after a news conference at which Capt. James Clark said Rodriguez was being sought as a “strong” person of interest in the murders in the Kensington section, a few miles north of downtown.

Elizabeth Hur reports…

The attacks, in what’s called the Kensington Strangler case, had left the neighborhood shaken — and police fearing that outraged residents might take matters into their own hands.

Rodriguez, known in the area as Black, had not been charged with any crime in the stranglings case, and police had not even obtained an arrest warrant for him, Clark said. But the link made by state police in their convicted felon database was “a major break,” he said. (see related stories)

Rodriguez, who was sought on a bench warrant from a missed court appearance in an unrelated case police wouldn’t discuss, was in custody Monday night and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Rodriguez recently had been released from prison, Clark said, but he declined to say for what he had been incarcerated or to detail his criminal history. He said state police had contacted Philadelphia police about the DNA match earlier in the day.

A state police representative was not immediately available for comment Monday on why Rodriguez was in their database.

Clark said it appeared Rodriguez was wandering around Kensington alone.

“Right now, the information we’re getting is he’s homeless, he’s wandering in the area, he’s frequenting abandoned houses, sort of just walking around in the Kensington area, so right now we do not believe anyone is helping him out,” Clark said.

Police described Rodriguez as 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds with a large scar running from his left ear to the middle of his throat and two tattoos: “Kiera” on his left arm and “Scorpio” on his right arm.

Police investigating a string of assaults in the area dating to early October said last month that through DNA they had linked the deaths of three women: Elaine Goldberg and Nicole Piacentini, both of Philadelphia, and Casey Mahoney, of East Stroudsburg, about 100 miles north. The women, all in their 20s, had struggled with drug addiction.

The bodies of the three women were found between early November and mid-December in vacant lots within a 10-block radius.

Three other women reported surviving sexual assaults in the area. Two of them said they were choked into unconsciousness.

None of the surviving victims had been shown Rodriguez’s photo, but Clark said that would be done.

The attacks took place in a stretch of Kensington known for open prostitution and drugs, although an influx of artists and young homebuyers has made parts of the neighborhood a bit trendier in recent years.

Earlier, authorities had only a composite sketch and grainy surveillance photo of a possible suspect in the Kensington Strangler case.

One of the hundreds of posts on a Facebook page titled “Catch the Kensington Strangler, before he catches someone you love” falsely identified a suspect, drawing an angry crowd to his house. He called police, who cleared him and scolded residents.

A year earlier in Kensington, a man suspected of raping an 11-year-old girl was severely beaten by angry neighbors who recognized him from a police photo. He later was charged and pleaded guilty.

In the stranglings case, Mayor Michael Nutter offered a $30,000 reward sponsored by the city and Citizens Crime Commission for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator. Separately, the local Fraternal Order of Police and Councilman Frank DiCicco offered $7,000 for help simply leading to an arrest with a DNA match.

(© 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

Stay with CBSPhilly.com for more information on this developing story.

Comments

One Comment

  1. fred says:

    fry the animal…

  2. JR says:

    DEATH MIGHT SCARE HIM A LIL THIS MONSTER NEEDS TO BE TORTURED UNTIL HE GOES UNCONSCIOUS AND BRING HIM BACK 3 TIMES ONE FOR EACH ONE OF HIS VICTIMS … RAPE HIM TOO SO HE KNOWS HOW IT FEELS … THEN SENTENCE HIM TO THE WORST PRISON IN THA US. THEY WILL TAKE CARE OF THE REST ..

  3. Dan says:

    What is his CRIMINAL RECORD?

    Why did he spend less than 3 Months in Prison for a FELONY?

    We don’t know the whole story yet.

  4. Bill Andrews says:

    Mike Martz: STFU.

  5. Kiera Slate says:

    Well im Creeped out My Name is Kiera and i am not related to him but reading this is just weird and i from jersy

  6. Kim L says:

    Arrested ?? This man is a monster !! Don’t put him back in prison for the rest of his sorry life at the TAXPAYERS EXPENSES !! Hang the S.O.B., torture him for a few days, then shoot him DEAD !!!

  7. rob says:

    r.d.: your comment is in bad taste

  8. Someonewhoknows says:

    I think we need to hold off on the after party. How is it that the suspects DNA was in a DNA bank of convicted felons, and somehow the samples from the murders and rapes were not run in this system for a match? Is this another case with Ramsey in charge like the Galludet College Murders and the Congressional Aide case?

  9. John says:

    you people hated the philly cops now all of a sudden you chant for them, lol

  10. TheInvestigator says:

    what a relief….great job PPD AND ALL federal agents

  11. Tom says:

    way to go Philly and State Police. Now let’s send a loud message and permanently dispose of this piece of feces….not pamper him in prison until a he reaches a ripe old age.

  12. Julius May says:

    Great Job Philly PD!!

  13. Leevet says:

    Bill and BC no need for the racist comments. The fact is the criminal is off the street. Wether he is blue, pink, white, black all that doesn’t matter. We are all relief about the news.Thanks to the Philly cops.

  14. mama says:

    thank you to the caller for phoning in the tip!!!

  15. Good guy says:

    Great job to the Philly Warrant Unit for finding him!!!! Those guys do a great job with out getting a thanks…Thank you, Philly warrant Unit!

  16. Da Man says:

    There’s another one on the loose in Detroit. He struck again over the weekeend.

  17. marykate says:

    Relief is what I feel. Thank you philly cops for getting this monster off our streets.

  18. Philly says:

    Great job to all those involved, especially the Warrant Unit for spotting and initiating the foot pursuit.

    1. Beth says:

      Warrant Unit Guys n Girls do great job! Thanks!

  19. Tommy Henry says:

    Arrested??? He should of been excuted on the spot!!!

  20. Jose Andaluz says:

    I’m glad he was cought and i knew that i can count on police work in Philadelphia.Go phily cops.

  21. Lou says:

    Its amazing that the news conference was about 40 mins ago and he’s already caught… Kudos to you, PPD!!

    1. Jose Andaluz says:

      At first he thought that since all they had was a sketch he wasnt gona get cought well he was wrong.Police work is the best work.

  22. Niklas says:

    GET HIM!!!! Crimes and monsters like this is what we have the death penalty for! Great job to law enforcement!!

    1. rob says:

      Go Philly cops!-my car was stolen in Radnor last year around this time and the Philly cops caught the supect and I got my car back within a few days- you better believe I went to every hearing to make sure I supported the court system-it was time consuming but it gave me a sense of satisfaction knowing that the criminal didn’t get off easy.

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